A bro­ken back and a lion’s heart


NOT even a bro­ken back could stop Thomas Shan­non from sav­ing his mum.

The pair were driv­ing home from a movie on Jan­uary 27 last year, after a freak storm had passed through their town of Win­del­lama in the South­ern Table­lands.

Thomas, 21, then a learner driver, was at the wheel when they sud­denly con­fronted flood­ing wa­ter only a cou­ple of kilo­me­tres from their home.

“We were go­ing over the top of a hill, there was a fair amount of wa­ter run­ning over the road that I couldn’t see com­ing up,” he said.

“I hit that and we were thrown off the left side of the road. I tried to steer the car be­tween a tree and fence post. Once it’s hit the fence post, the car rolled. I re­mem­ber see­ing the ground out­side the driver’s side win­dow.

“When I came to in the car I no­ticed the wind­screen was gone. I’d lost my glasses in the crash so ev­ery­thing was pretty blurry.”

The car had rolled be­fore land­ing back on its wheels in a muddy pad­dock.

Years of vol­un­teer­ing in the Win­del­lama Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice kicked in and he went into first-re­spon­der mode, adren­a­line mask­ing his own se­ri­ous in­juries.

The crushed-in roof separat­ing them meant he couldn’t im­me­di­ately see his mum.

“I ducked down to look at mum and could see the roof was on her head,” he said. “I called out to her but she didn’t an­swer straight away. After a while I heard noises com­ing from her.”

Smelling what he thought was petrol and melt­ing plas­tic, Thomas re­alised get­ting his mum out of the car was a mat­ter of ur­gency. But Mrs Shan­non was stuck.

“My neck was pinned be­tween the roof of the car and the seat,” Mrs Shan­non said. “I came to be­cause Thomas was calling me.

“He got out of the car, came to my side and man­aged to get the door open.

“I had in­juries to my knee and my right foot and a lot of fa­cial in­juries. I broke 10 teeth. There was a large cut to the top of my head so I was cov­ered in blood. I also suf­fered a lot of nerve dam­age.”

The re­mote lo­ca­tion of the ac­ci­dent meant there was no phone re­cep­tion so Thomas hailed a pass­ing car and had one of the oc­cu­pants stay with his mum while he went home to get his dad, Bren­dan, for help.

It wasn’t un­til his mum was be­ing cared for by paramedics that Thomas re­alised he wasn’t in great shape.

“That’s when it started to feel like I’d been kicked in the back,” Thomas said. “I had to do what I had to do.”

The pain Thomas was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing was from a frac­tured T11 ver­te­brae.

Thomas has been nom­i­nated for a Pride of Aus­tralia Award. His grand­mother, Mar­garet Shan­non, nom­i­nated him.

Thomas Shan­non and his mum Linda and, below, the wrecked car from which Thomas res­cued her.

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