Mum shares heartbreaking story in plea for road safety

Cory Whitmore and Rachel Purdy.
Cory Whitmore and Rachel Purdy.

SIX years ago, mum Kathy Whitmore never thought she'd find herself pleading for driver awareness.

"It's not until it happens to you, that you even become aware of the tragedies and heartaches associated with road crashes," the bereaved mum-of-two told The Gympie Times.

Kathy's only son Cory was killed in a tragic quadruple fatality on the Bruce Hwy on September 4, 2008. Following a horror spate of deaths on Gympie region roads in recent weeks, Kathy has shared her story to urge our region's motorists to drive to arrive.

"Life as we knew it was changed forever," Kathy said of that fateful Thursday six years ago.

Kathy not only lost her 29-year-old happy-go-lucky son but she also lost daughter-in-law Rachel Purdy, 31, who was pregnant.

Cory, Rachel and their unborn child were killed when their Ford Falcon was hit a pantech truck and burst into flames, causing immediate death by incineration on the wet highway at Kybong. The driver of the truck, Mark Hamilton, 44, was also killed.

"We awoke to thunder, rain and more rain," Kathy said.

"One of those days that you just don't want to be on the roads."

However, that day Cory, an accomplished boxer, headed to a specialist appointment at Gympie Hospital for a snapped Achilles tendon. Rachel drove.

"Drive carefully. Love you. Let me know how you go.

"These were the last words I was ever to say to my son, and they will ring in my ears until the day I die."

It was 12.45pm and Kathy and her husband Warren were digging a trench to keep flooding from their home when Rachel's sister Belinda called asking if they had heard from the couple.

Belinda heard of a crash on the Bruce wanted to warn the couple.

Soon after they learned the gut-wrenching truth.

"It's them"- words Kathy will never forget.

On hearing the news every parent prays never to receive Kathy and Warren collapsed, still at the trench, oblivious to the rain pelting down on them.

"We then had the task of telling our daughter Kirsty that her brother and soul mate had died.

"To this day I still can't remember what I said, but I do have a distinct memory imbedded into my soul of the sheer devastation I heard from the other end of the phone.

"Then we had to call our son-in-law Chad to give him the tragic news, which he then had the enormous task of telling our grandchildren, Taylor and Logan.

"All I could think about is that I wanted to see my son, to hug him and kiss him ...I never did get to say goodbye to my precious son.

"I keep saying it was so horrific that no young person should ever have to die the way my son and his family did.

"A whole family with all their hopes and dreams taken away in a heartbeat."

There was little comfort from the intense six -day inquest into the tragic crash 18 months later. The nearest thing to anything remotely comforting was the clearing of Rachel from any wrong-doing.

"Unfortunately, Cory and Rachel were the innocent victims of drivers not driving to the conditions of the road and weather at the time.

"Driving too close to the vehicle in front of you can have catastrophic endings as this proved on this tragic day."

Kathy said the coroner told her family the crash that took her family would have been instantaneous and that Cory and Rachel would not have felt a thing.

"I suppose it was said to give us some comfort, but how can you find comfort in the death of your child?

"I still cry most days and my mind runs with what could have been and what should have been and torments me with pictures of their tragic ending.

"I hope that hearing my story today has made you all think twice to make better choices before you get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

"Don't think that 'oh, that was a sad story and that this won't happen to me'. Well, it can; it happened to my son and his family.

"When you leave your house of a day, you never know if you are going to come home again."

A memorial in Cory, Rachel and their baby's can still be seen by drivers as they pass what was once the scene of utter tragedy.

Remember them when you get behind the wheel, and drive to arrive.

Gympie Times

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