Mackay Whitsunday district road toll doubles over 12 months
A mother intentionally driving while high on drugs, a popular teen run over on a suburban street - these are among Mackay and Whitsunday's tragic road toll for 2020.
Fatal crashes spiked from 11 deaths in 2019 to 24 last year within the district despite lockdowns imposed under COVID-19 restrictions.
"That's a significant jump," Mackay Forensic Crash Unit officer in charge Sergeant Michael Hollett said.
So why was 2020 such a horror year?
"That's the key question because we had a big period of lockdown," Sgt Hollett said.
The district, as well as the rest of Queensland, was under strict movements from about March until the end of June as authorities tried to keep the spread of coronavirus in check.
However Sgt Hollett said there were six fatal crashes during that period.
"That's a mystery … we were still getting fatal crashes during that lockdown period," Sgt Hollett said.
'It's a constant battle'
Also during lockdown, when the roads were only meant to be used by essential workers or essential living, police nabbed 264 drink drivers between March 1 and June 30 - only a slight decrease from the 284 picked up the year before.
"It's scary because we know that they're out there … all the time," Sgt Hollett said.
"Some people are slightly affected, some people are very heavily affected by alcohol or drugs.
"They're out there on our road so for us it's a constant battle to try and find these people before they cause something like this."
Of the 24 fatalities from 21 crashes, only 21 deaths will be listed as part of the official 2020 road toll record.
Sgt Hollett said three were considered "out of scope" as investigations revealed a medical condition or intentional act.
In 2019 two of the 11 deaths were labelled "out of scope" and in 2018 also, two of the 15 fatal traffic crashes were linked to medical conditions.
'On this day it caused her death'
Of the 21 deaths, 17 were linked to the three of fatal five - specifically alcohol and drugs, distraction and fatigue.
In fact Sgt Hollett said in all the crashes that occurred on the district's roads, which covers Mackay, Isaac and the Whitsundays, there had been a noticeable increase in the number caused by drink and drug driving.
One fatal incident particularly stands out, he said.
A mother had been driving with her child in the back seat when she collided with another vehicle.
"I'd actually just started work that day (when the job came in)," Sgt Hollett said.
"That stuck out because you've got a woman who's driving history was good, there were no red flags, but she came back with a significant amphetamine reading on her system.
"You wonder how many people are out there like this that don't come to police attention for any reason."
Sgt Hollett said she had obviously been a methylamphetamine user for a long time.
"And on this day it caused her death," he said.
"It was a situation that she created, nobody else."
Sgt Hollett had also attended the Beaconsfield site where Nilly Mooney tragically lost her life when she was struck by a car on Celebre Dr.
"Nilly was only 150m from home," he said.
The 15 year old had already been home and had gone back out to look for her phone when she was hit at 3.15am.
The driver fled but handed herself in after 3pm the following day.
Sgt Hollett said because of the 12-hour time delay police were unable to perform any breath tests.
Jessica May Goulding was charged with failing to remain at the scene.
She has been jailed for three years after pleading guilty to that charge and other drug-related offending.
Goulding has since filed an appeal on the grounds her sentence was manifestly excessive.
It was one of two fatal crashes from 2020 that resulted in a driver being charged.
The second was a head-on crash on Eton Homebush Rd in October last year causing the death of a 42-year-old Sarina woman.
As a result police have charged a 25-year-old McEwens Beach man with dangerous driving causing death and he will face Mackay Magistrates Court for the first time this year.
Message for drivers in 2021
Sgt Hollett said dealing with the family of a loved one killed in a crash was one of the most heartbreaking aspects of the job.
He said families often had numerous questions and the investigative process could be long and complex.
For example, often drivers alleged to be at fault in a crash were allowed to keep their licence as the case progressed through the courts and would generally only be disqualified if convicted.
"It's hard for a family member to try and understand that," Sgt Hollett said.
But for any driver what it came down to was choice, he said.
"Drivers need to think about the choices they are making, as soon as you sit behind the wheel of a car," Sgt Hollett said.
"Am I right to get where I am going. If I make a certain choice, could that affect somebody else.
"Police … are out there 24/7."