'Leaving a soul to die is the hardest part of the job'
Three people have died on Queensland roads during the Easter long weekend, bringing the state's shocking road toll to 76 and prompting a desperate plea from first responders for the carnage to stop.
Critical care doctor Akmez Latona has given News Corp an exclusive insight into how traumatic these scenes are for the people who respond to crashes, saying he hopes his story can spare families from the tragedy and horror he and his colleagues face every day.
As a highly trained specialist for RACQ's LifeFlight Rescue Helicopter, Dr Latona vividly remembers the days he's had to let the souls of those victims go.
"When I can't save someone, when I've done everything I can and it's not good enough, those are the moments I'm caught off guard," Dr Latona said.
"Especially when we can't save pregnant women or kids, and we try to do the best we can.
"But sometimes you just know you have to leave them the way they are, they're not able to survive or be brought back.
"Leaving a soul to die is the hardest part of the job. And there's just no way around that. That's a part of the job, that's a part of life and of living."
The authorities aim to ensure the road toll is less than the year prior each year.
This year, however, police and emergency crews, including medical heroes such as Dr Akmez, are fighting a losing battle.
The lives of up to 76 people have been lost on Queensland roads so far, a number that towers over last year's 50 lives lost in the same period.
A person dies on Queensland's roads at a rate of one life every 1.2 days - or one life lost within every 30 hours.
One of those lives was young father of four, Alex Alford, died last month while on a trip to visit his mother in law in the Bundaberg region.
The car he was travelling in collided with a tree in Eureka, near Childers.
His life was claimed instantly, while his three month old baby girl likely only survived the crash due to the padding of her car seat, but may have irreversible brain damage.
Mr Alford's soon to be wife survived, but is now left to raise the children alone - and the date of their November wedding will go uncelebrated.
Or, there's the elderly couple who fought for days to survive a horror crash in mid-March - the impact of the Morayfield bingle was so bad, the roof was torn off the car.
The pair, aged 77 and 81, succumbed to their injuries, later dying in hospital.
And a man, in his 60s, died while a woman continues to fight for her life after a crash on David Low Way on Sunday.
For Dr Akmez - who trained for 13 years to provide exceptional care to patients in need anywhere, at any time - the most chaotic and heartbreaking of scenes comes from the unpredictability of a crash.
"The unique challenge of a crash is that you have an unexpected situation where you're faced with life and death," he said.
"It's not like when you're sick in a hospital and you have time to think about being sick or know what's happening. Often in these crashes, there's two scenarios - life, or death.
"There's no time to think about how bad it is. There's no time to explain to the family this is how sick your loved ones are. It's just split second decision making."
Dr Akmez and a critical care paramedic, along with the pilot and an aircrew person, are deployed within a moment's notice, at any time of the day or night.
They get the call, and just like a scene from an action movie, are up in the air within 15 minutes - spare blood and life restoring drugs in hand, while planning for the worst case scenario takes place for the duration of the journey.
From having to cut patient's chests open to treat their punctured lungs by the roadside, or attach a child to a machine to keep them breathing at the scene of a crash, the vital work of critical care doctors and other crucial first responders is nothing short of heroic.
"I don't feel like a hero, but we do make a difference in people's lives," Dr Akmez said.
"We are sometimes the difference between life and death, we give medical expertise to people, we give comfort to them and hope to their families.
"And this is the purpose for my work. It gives me good satisfaction to know I can do something for people, I can join families back together, I can return the people to their loved ones.. I can't say how noble that is. It gives me purpose for what I do."
Originally published as 'Leaving a soul to die': Critical care doctor's haunting road safety plea