LETTER: Appeal over deadly roads

Dear Mr Barilaro (Member for Monaro),

In the past I have spoken to you personally at community meetings about both the state of Jerangle Road in various places and the lack of any substantial mobile phone reception east of Bredbo.

So far, there has been no improvement of the mobile phone reception and whilst there has been council works on Jerangle Rd, it is still very dangerous in some areas.

Yesterday afternoon, my wife, Jane, was travelling back home to our farm at Jerangle after picking up our 14-year-old daughter from the Bredbo bus stop. Also in the car with them were our 20-month-old son and our 3-year-old daughter, both in approved child seats. This trip into Bredbo and back, Jane does twice a day.

About 10kms along Jerangle Rd from Bredbo, just before the Strike -A-Light Creek crossing, she lost control in the mud and slush that had formed on the road from the intense storm that had just impacted the area and rolled the car onto its roof completely squashing the front section of the roof, forcing her to kick out the back door and, along with our 14-year-old daughter, crawl out of the car.

Thankfully, neither my wife, nor my children were seriously injured from the accident, however the case could have been very different. My wife, on her own, on Jerangle Rd, in the rain, with the car on its roof in the middle of the road, and several screaming children, attempted to call me for help but could not get any phone signal. Fearing that there might be a further accident from cars attempting to avoid her accident, she attempted to call 000, only to find she could not even get through to Emergency Services for help.

Fortunately, a local person driving by on his way home stopped to help her. After ensuring all were uninjured and ok, he drove a number of kilometres back towards Bredbo until he could receive a phone signal on his mobile phone, and promptly called me at work. I in turn, notified Emergency Services of the accident. After calling me, the man returned to my wife, and then took my three children home, some 10km away. He then turned around, and went straight back to my wife to ensure she was ok, and waited with her until Emergency Services arrived.

I arrived on scene with the Police and shortly after the local Rural Fire Brigade and tow truck. The road was closed for a short time while the car was removed from the roadway and onto the back of the tow truck.

I am very grateful to the gentleman from Captains Flat who stopped and assisted in the pouring rain and would also like to acknowledge the members of the Jerangle Rural Fire Brigade and staff from M&T Motors who all assisted my wife until the arrival of police. However, had my wife or children had been injured in the accident, things may have gone very differently, as there was no way of contacting Emergency Services from the scene. In 2013, this is totally unacceptable.

My wife was driving to the conditions. She was driving a road she is intimately familiar with, and was driving considerably slower than usual, accounting for the poor weather and road conditions. She was driving a four wheel drive vehicle and did nothing out of the ordinary with her driving. Further, all other vehicles that passed by or stopped at the accident, including the NSW Police four wheel drive vehicle, lost traction on that section of road and slipped or skidded in one way or another.

I am aware that Cooma Council has conducted grading works on Jerangle Rd in the past, and most recently only a number of weeks ago. However grading alone will not fix a road, and in this circumstance the road surface turned to clay after the rain and caused my wife's car to slide and eventually roll onto its roof. In the past Cooma council staff have addressed local community meetings and responded to community concerns over road conditions with little more than sob stories of their lack of funding for road maintenance other than sporadic grading or natural disaster repairs. Clearly there is no plan for proper maintenance to include surfacing, run off or aligning as they have no money to do this.

This is unacceptable.

As my State Member of Parliament, I respectfully request that you take immediate action on both the issue of no mobile phone reception and a lack of adequate funding for proper road maintenance of Cooma council roads before somebody is seriously injured or worse, killed.

Angus Fergusson

Jerangle NSW

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