A favour for a friend led two brothers to a chance discovery that would save a life.
Daniel and Nick White were on the way to help a mate move his sheep when they saw a plume of smoke on Burke and Wills Track at Baynton but what they found was beyond imagining.
A steaming hot car engine was on the side of the road that led them to the smoking car wreck 20 metres away on the other side. The car had veered off the road and hit a group of trees at a notorious stretch of road known to locals as “the pinch”.
“We realised it was not good but it took us a little while to register what was happening,” Daniel said.
Smoke from the car was building and the driver was still trapped inside. The brothers knew they had to act.
Nick ran to the driver’s aid while Daniel drove the top of the hill to call 000 and warn oncoming traffic. He then ran back down to assist his brother in freeing 26-year-old Mia Mia man Alexander Hall from the wreckage.
“The door was all smashed up so we pulled the seat down to lift him through the back passenger door,” Nick said.
But the car fire took hold as they began their rescue and Alex’s seat-belt added to their difficulties.
“The fire under the front of the car, in the foot-well, was getting worse and burning his legs when we were getting him out. He was pretty distressed,” Daniel said.
“We were worried about his neck so we didn’t want to move him too much but we had to get him out of there because the fire was burning grass all around us. Alex was in and out of consciousness.”
The pair lifted Alex to safety and removed his burnt clothing. The brothers’ friend and a nurse who saw the scene stopped to assist while they waited for emergency services to arrive. They stayed by Alex until he was airlifted to the Alfred Hospital.
It has been over a year since that fortunate road rescue, on Good Friday 2018, and last week the two brothers were among seven Victorians to be presented with bravery awards by The Royal Humane Society of Australasia.
Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau AC presented them with bronze medals at Government House.
Until a special reunion last week, Nick, 25, and Daniel, 28, did not know the identity of the driver but were delighted to hear of his progress since the rescue and meet his mother Stephanie Raybould, both grateful for the brothers’ efforts that day.
“Thank God they were driving past. It’s not a road that gets a lot of traffic. He could have gone an hour or more without a car passing, so it was lucky these guys were passing by otherwise Alex night not be here today,” Ms Raybould said.
Alex has limited memory of that day and was in an induced coma for about two weeks following the accident.
He had suffered burns to his legs and feet, cracked and broken ribs, punctured lungs, broken arm, damaged shoulder blade and collarbone, fractured skull in several places and brain injury that has affected his left optic nerve.
Alex was in hospital for six months and continues rehabilitation.