Turning out to a bad car accident is never easy for CFA people, and at times never knowing the final outcome plays on the minds of those who attended.
An incident in Quambatook had closure through locals seeking to reunite the driver and his dog.
Only three weeks after attending a motor vehicle fatality, members from Quambatook apprehensively faced another car accident.
Driver Mat had been on his way to a mate’s house in Swan Hill, which was a drive he took regularly, when he careered off the road.
Quambatook brigade arrived on scene to find a nasty crash and Mat in a bad way. His ute had rolled several times before hitting a tree and coming to rest upright. He’d lost a lot of blood but was breathing and communicating. Members snapped into action.
The brigade members had watched the air ambulance take Mat away into the black void of night not knowing if he would survive. It was then they noticed dog collars lying in the debris on the back of the ute.
Did Mat have a dog with him? And if so, where was the dog?
Brigade members searched for what they assumed would be a severely injured dog, but found nothing. After confirming the next day that Mat’s dog Kev was indeed with him on the night of the accident, members, their family and friends headed back out to search with no success.
It wasn’t until three days after the accident that the brigade heard Kev had rescued himself, jumping into the front seat of a local farmer’s ute.
Meanwhile, brigade members couldn’t help but wonder if Mat had survived.
Quambatook Fire Brigade’s Chelle Espagne, who attended the accident, voiced her concern to a friend about not knowing, and the friend tracked down Mat’s dad on behalf of the brigade.
“Mat’s dad Grant was so grateful to hear from the brigade and kept us updated at each change in Mat’s condition,” Chelle said.
“After a while it became clear he was going to be OK. It was such a relief.”
The regular updates culminated in a reunion barbecue in August 2018 in Swan Hill, four months after the accident.
“Given the severity of the crash, we were all preparing for this to be another fatality,” Chelle said.
“Instead, I got to hug a young man who, the last time I saw him, didn’t have a good prognosis.
“It was a good news story, one that has really made a difference to our members because we not only know that we saved someone’s life, we got to see Mat - and Kev - looking happy and well.”
Originally from Melbourne, Mat is pursuing a life on the land, studying at Longerenong College and working on a nearby farm. Mat doesn’t remember anything from the accident.
Due to his head injuries, he was placed in a medically-induced coma for two weeks. He also suffered fractures to his right hand, neck and skull. He’s improving day-by-day despite still requiring rehabilitation three times a week.
He’s also getting ready to get behind the wheel again for the first time since his accident, after getting the all-clear from his doctors.
“I never really knew how much a simple BBQ could mean to so many people,” Mat said.
“Without hosting this event I would never have had the opportunity to meet the people who ultimately saved my life.
“People often ask me if I feel lucky - lucky is not really the word. I feel grateful that I was found and helped so quickly by the best CFA crew possible with so many hard working and dedicated volunteers.
“I have been able to walk up to and hug and shake the hands of the people who quite literally saved my life.”
Mat’s dad Grant said they took the trip back to Quambatook and Swan Hill to give the brigade and other emergency services members closure following the accident.
“I had no idea emergency services members weren’t told what happens to the people they help,” Grant said.
“Going up to Swan Hill to say thanks was about closure for them, but it was also important for us as a family.
“Our whole outlook on life has changed since Mat’s accident. It was so good to be able to say thank-you in person.
“We’re so grateful to them for what they did to save our son.”