The driver was surrounded in darkness as he drove South along the Bruce Highway, just before Liverpool Creek, North Queensland. It was raining. A truck had his high beams on. He continued to steer the vehicle straight on the road. After the truck had passed, was when he hit the unseen water across the road, between the rail tracks. He realised that water had flooded the road, in the heavy rain, because the car’s back-end stepped out. He thought he could correct it, but once the front-end broke he was there for the ride.
‘The moment I lost both of them I straightened the wheel up and put my foot hard on the brakes.’
He didn’t want the front wheels pointing in the wrong direction, otherwise if the rear-end caught and gripped, it would have flung the vehicle around, possibly ending up on the other side of the road and hitting another car.
‘This way with the wheels straight and locked up I knew where I was going.’
Steered to Skid Sideways
He skidded sideways down the embankment, across the bitumen driveway, until the front driver’s side wheel dug into the soft soil and it was then the car rolled. When the car stilled, he was hanging upside down — alone, in the dark. He could hear some vehicles pass by, but nobody stopped. No one saw the car partly hidden in the long guinea grass. The four wheel drag marks were also obscured as they lay stretched down along the side of the embankment.
‘Hello. Are you there Mr Baldey?’
Allan was trying to understand; how someone could get to him so quickly and how did they know his name. He didn’t hear any vehicles stop. It was still pitch black, in the early morning, and he was still strapped upside down in the seat belt harness.
‘Hello. Are you there Mr Baldey?’
‘I’m from the International call centre for the vehicle’s SOS ConnectedDrive system.We have detected a rollover on the vehicle. Please advise what has happened?’
‘I rolled the car.’
‘Is there anybody hurt?’ she asked.
‘Are there any other passengers?’
‘I have contacted the police and the ambulance.They are on their way.’
In actual fact, within 5-6 seconds of the car stopping, the vehicle’s SOS and GPS component of the ConnectedDrive system had alerted the emergency services.
He didn’t have time to marvel at the car’s ingenuity, he knew he needed to get out of the vehicle. He released himself from the harness using his hand to push down on the roof, allowing his finger to stretch and press down on the seat belt’s release button; simultaneously.
Now he was sitting on the inside of the smooth roof with no obstacles, as the seats were now above him. He discovered that the driver’s side window had smashed and not shattered, which resulted in no lacerations. Another potentially life saving component was that the driver’s window had been laminated, just like the front windscreen.
Once released, he found that the driver’s door would only open about a foot, so that means of escape was ruled out. He had to tick ‘exit via driver’s door’ off his mental check list; just as he had considered manually turning off the engine, it had done so by itself.
Next, a Coca Cola truck driver arrived at the scene.
He called out, ‘Is there anybody in there?’
The truck driver pulled open the door behind the driver, which allowed Allan to crawl along the inside roof and get out through the back passenger door. The driver of the Coke van helped him into the front of his truck until the paramedics could take over. He’s not sure of the driver’s name: Adrian, Andrew…or something along those lines, but he very much appreciated his help.
The ambulance officers performed an ECG and a blood pressure test. When the ambulance officer retrieved some items from the car for the patient, a woman’s voice called out, ‘Are you there Allan? Allan, are you there?’
The officer was taken aback, momentarily concerned that someone else may have been stuck in the vehicle. A brief explanation about the SOS GPS system saw the officer advise the caller that he was a paramedic and that the patient was alright. It was only at that point, that the vehicle’s International SOS caller hung up.
Another impressive feature was knowing that a real human person, somewhere outside of Australia; somewhere in the world, had waited for the driver to be in the safe hands of paramedics before disconnecting the call.
Also another feature was that because the vehicle had detected a roll over, it only blew the required airbags, which were the curtain air bags on the pillars going forward. It hadn’t detected a side impact, and it hadn’t detected a front impact, so those airbags were not required; only the airbags for a roll over.
When he arrived at the hospital, the Police were puzzled as to why they were receiving International emails and international phone calls for an accident near Tully, Australia. As Allan explained, it was the vehicle’s GPS system which had taken the car’s position (of impact) and transmitted it to the vehicle’s international SOS answering service. The Police were given a location, but the name of the location was unfamiliar to them. In actual fact, the local ambulance officer said that it was a name that had been in use previously. Importantly, the GPS had relayed the latitude and longitude co-ordinates enabling the Emergency Services to find the vehicle’s exact position.
He was released from hospital about 8:30am; once his blood pressure had reduced. And after double checking, the medical staff noted that his heart was beating at the rate of a 21 year old.
‘You got to be happy with that,’ Allan said.
The Section of Road
The section of road in question, near the accident, would benefit from a spoon drain on the Western side of the road to catch the flooding rain water before it runs down through the tram line and then flows across the road.
Whilst he walked away with almost no bruises on this occasion, it brought back memories of some 35 years ago when he was stuck upside down in a rally car, with Peter Roggenkamp, and water floating around their heads.
This day won’t be easily forgotten. It was on Monday 18th July, 2016 that I received a phone call at about 5:50am. I recall being sound asleep. Thinking it must be one of Allan’s overseas clients, I was instead greeted with Allan’s calm voice.
Picking up the receiver, I said, ‘Hello?’
‘Hello Love. It’s Allan. I’m alright, but I’ve rolled the car.’
‘Can you get the day off?’
‘Yes, no problems, sure.’
‘Can you pick me up from the Tully Hospital.’
‘Did you say you rolled the car?’
‘And you’re obviously talking to me, so you must be alright.’
‘Okay. I’ll organise work.’
I left home shortly after. I calculated it would take me about 1 1/2hrs to get to Tully and I needed a distraction. I decided on my podcast, ‘So You Want To Be A Writer’ with Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait. They were good company, as I headed for the Tully Hospital.
As I approached the Liverpool Creek bridge, I slowed down. I looked to my left and there lay the vehicle; partly swallowed up by the long guinea grass and partly obscured by the overhanging branches. It was at that point that I realised how lucky Allan really was, for the vehicle lay some 60m from the flowing Liverpool Creek.