Liz Hutchinson at the accident site on Spencer Rd, near Kilkivan.
Liz Hutchinson at the accident site on Spencer Rd, near Kilkivan. Renee Pilcher

Broken, bruised, without a signal

A COUNTRY road late at night. A few big potholes. A tree too close to the road.

All the ingredients for disaster combined three weeks ago, when a four-wheel drive ute driven by Kilkivan woman Liz Hutchinson left Spencer Rd and ploughed head-on into a large gum tree.

It was about 10pm and an injured and dazed Ms Hutchinson has no recollection of the seconds before or after the accident.

But she remembers the potholes and blames them for her accident.

She wants Gympie Regional Council to do something about them - now.

Her husband Glen was following not far behind. He arrived at the scene to find Ms Hutchinson standing beside the ute with their pet dog trapped inside.

None of Ms Hutchinson's four children were with her.

The vehicle, however, was so damaged it has been written off. Though they were only 3km out of Kilkivan, Spencer Rd is part of a mobile phone signal blackhole in that part of the region, so Glen drove his wife to the nearest neighbour and rang 000 on a landline connection.

Ms Hutchinson collapsed twice before the ambulance arrived.

She was covered in bruises, and had a broken sternum, a broken rib, four broken bones in her wrist and arm, a suspected bruised heart and a suspected punctured lung.

There were no skid marks on the road and Ms Hutchinson has no memory of hitting the pothole or getting out of the car.

With her arm still in plaster and her chest still badly bruised yesterday, she revisited the spot where she could so easily have lost her life.

The tree bears its own scars.

"I saw my husband's car lights behind me, then I saw the tree," said Ms Hutchinson.

"I wasn't even going fast. I'd gone 10km below the speed limit all the way from Brisbane."

Mayor Ron Dyne said Spencer Rd was on the council's program to be graded within the next few weeks.

But Ms Hutchinson says she has heard that before, and that in the four years since she and her husband moved into the neighbourhood, Spencer Rd has never been graded.

Meanwhile, its traffic load is on the rise, with new ownership and more business taking place at the Rossmore Rd caravan park.

"We accept that the road from the (Wide Bay) highway to the creek is in poor condition," Cr Dyne said.

"At the present moment we are suffering a lot of failures on our dirt roads because we have had a wet winter coming out of a wet summer."

He said council staff were putting maximum effort into overcoming those problems.

On the issue of mobile phone coverage, Cr Dyne said he was sympathetic, and that Australia's competition laws were working against the people of Kilkivan.

Encouraging service providers to all hang their service off one tower could in turn encourage competing providers to build towers in more varied, less densely populated areas and help lift the level of coverage in rural and regional Australia, he said.

Kilkivan has two competing mobile phone towers, but there is no service almost as soon as you leave town.

Bendele Farm owner Sarah Sterns said the lack of mobile service in the area made conducting business more difficult.

Sarah and her husband Fred own and operate Kilkivan's increasingly famous organic poultry farm and describe the mobile phone situation as "inconvenient as well as dangerous".

"We rely on a landline, but if we are down the paddock or in one of the sheds and something happened ... it's a worry with kids."

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