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Stories & Tributes

Leanne & Daryl

"Pain is a real thing that you cannot see"...
By Dawn Williams (Mother of Leanne & Daryl)

Before I begin my story I would just like to say that each and everyone one of us has a story to tell and this is my story which I do not want you to compare with yours.  Everyone is unique and so are your life’s experiences.

We purchased our first home at O’Sullivan’s Beach where we raised son and daughter Daryl and Leanne.  Our family life was pretty normal.  Both Daryl and Leanne participated in sport.  Daryl played tennis and football while Leanne played tennis, netball and cricket.  Leanne loved music and played the Organ and Clarinet.  Daryl loved spear fishing, surfing and animals.  We went through all the normal mixed up hormone teenage years with both of them.

We moved to Rendelsham in October 1992.  We were both adjusting to country life with Daryl and Leanne staying in Adelaide, which was hard.  Leanne came down for a surprise visit on Saturday night 11/9/1993.  We had a beautiful day on Sunday, 12/9/1993 visiting family in Millicent.  We had a BBQ lunch and most of the family members came out to catch up with Leanne.  We left there about 3.30pm so we could fill Leanne’s car up with fuel and go home so she could pack and leave for her unit at Morphett vale at 4.30pm.  We said drive carefully and we will see you on the long weekend in October.

We were watching TV and about 7.30pm we both said Leanne would not be far from home.  Then a message flashed across the TV screen asking if anyone had been with Leanne Williams could they please contact the Millicent Police station.  We both froze and Arnold rang the Police station to be advised that Leanne had been killed in a road accident at Claywells and that she died instantly. The Police came out to our place and confirmed what they told Arnold on the phone, and I did not believe them.  I hoped she would be injured or they had made a mistake, but they had not.  My extended family that we had spent the day with all came out to our place, none of us could believe it. Arnold and I went into shock our bodies went numb.  We had to let Daryl know and our families know who lived in Adelaide.  Everyone was is disbelief.

Daryl’s Death and Arnie’s Stroke

On the 23rd August 2008 Daryl was on his way to Victor Harbour when his car was hit by another car in the middle of the left back passenger door and he spun out of Control and hit a tree and died instantly. 

On the 30th August 2008 it was Daryl’s Funeral at Millicent. Daryl’s wife was very gracious and said Daryl should be with Leanne.

On the 12th of September 2008 is was 15 years since Leanne was killed in a road accident also impounding a tree and dying instantly.

On the 13th September 2008 at lunch time Arnie had a massive stroke and was not expected to survive.  He was in intensive care in the Flinders Medical Centre for 14 days not knowing whether he would live or die. Luckily he survived, but had permanent life changing disabilities. He lost his balance and short term memory.  He is now continually dizzy and cannot remember things in the short term.  When he did wake up he knew Daryl was dead but could not remember his funeral, or how he died.  All Arnold could do was lay flat in bed, he could not sit up or talk properly.  So he has come a long way in his journey of rehabilitation.

It is a life shattering experience to be informed that your child has been killed in a road accident.  For us our bodies went into traumatic shock.  It tries to protect you from the severe pain that you are experiencing. That lasted for us, for about 6 weeks, then it wears off and we wonder why we were feeling worse now, than we were two weeks ago.

I will use an analogy because all the hurt and emotions are happening on the inside of your body.  It is not a visible wound.

How it is on the inside
You have a broken heart (I have learnt that there is such a thing).  Pain is a real thing that you cannot see.  Your heart is bleeding with pain.       

An Analogy

It’s like having your arm severed, you are haemorrhaging, and every nerve end is hurting and there is no pain killer available.

Nobody can prepare you for the huge swing of the grief pendulum as you go through the different stages of grief.   How can you feel as if you are getting on top of things one day and so down the next.  Here are a few different stages of grief that I experienced:

  • Shock            
  • Disbelief       
  • Depressed, lonely, vulnerable and emotional
  • Physical symptoms of distress
  • Feelings of anger and guilt
  • Unable to return to usual activities                                             
  • Gradually hope comes through                                       
  • Acceptance and the struggle to re adjust to reality

To explain it in a visual way, it is like your life is a shattered dinner plate in a million pieces and you are trying to put it back together again, but as you pick up a few pieces and put them back together, other pieces fall down again. The best way to answer the question of ‘How do you get over the loss of a child?’ (You never get over it, your only learn to live with it). Is to refer to the dinner plate and say when you mend the dinner plate you can still see the cracks and that is how your life is, except that you can’t see the cracks they are on the inside and they open when you least expect them to.

Men and women grieve differently and because you are both in emotional pain you have tunnel vision and cannot understand what your partner is going through and communications can break down.

Going Through the Court Case

In Daryl’s case I felt everything was in favour for the other driver, who did not believe he had done anything wrong.  He was stony faced all through the hearing and never once apologized for the heart ache he caused our family.  He received a 2 month suspended gaol sentence and 6 months loss of licence. Daryl’s Case was adjourned either 13 or 14 times.
To cope with the legal system, which I do not understand, has been like being dropped in the middle of the lake with people walking all around the outside making decisions which we have no control over, but have to cope with the consequences. Each adjournment is like having your head pushed under the water again and we have to try and make our way above the water again ready for the next court date. As Daryl’s parents we have to accept that this was a tragic accident. Daryl was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The profound it effect it has had on our lives

  • Daryl’s children have to grow up without their Dad
  • We have lost both our children to road accidents and both hitting a tree
  • Arnold lost in ability to work and earn an income
  • I had to drastically scale down my business also causing loss of income
  • We had to make changes to our house and yard to cope with Arnies disabilities
  • It’s been twenty years without hearing our daughters voice or being called Mum and Dad

The long road of grief is made no easier by having been there before.  Each new day brings new challenges and renewed sadness.  Both of us have had lots of professional counselling. We are very lucky to belong to large family and have beautiful supportive friends that have supported us through this hard journey.  It’s the power of their love that gets us through all the difficult times we have to face.

Our lives are now manageable and in closing I would just like to say you have to go through all the tough stages of grief, enjoy the simple things in life, the beauty of nature, be kind to yourself and live one day at a time and be in the now.

Thank you all for reading my story. 

If you wish to have your story or tribute posted on our website please forward to info@roadtraumasupportsa.com.au along with your contact details. 

Dr Tania Lienert

"She was in the wrong place at the wrong time"...
By Lorraine Lienert (Tania’s Mother)

It was not her fault – it was not her accident – but she was the one who died!

“Drive Safely!”  We say is every day.  It is not meant to be telling you how to live your life.  But it is an expression of HOPE that you will arrive safely at your destination and that you will not be the victim of someone else’s inattention, someone else’s failure to Drive Safely!

My daughter Tania lost her life because of a collision between two vehicles on a wet country road.  She was following behind, a third vehicle on the road at the time of someone else’s driving error.  She was five minutes from home.  It was a country road in northern NSW, signed at 100kph.  The driver of the vehicle following her car said she was travelling two car lengths behind the vehicle in front of her and she did nothing wrong. 

Yet she died from injuries received at the moment of impact when the vehicle at fault swung into her path following the initial collision and collided a second time – head-on with her vehicle.  A guard rail on her left would have prevented any evasive action if she had had time to react.  The other vehicle itself blocked any evasive action to the right. 

She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We were told that the Emergency vehicles were quickly on the scene and that there were people talking to her while they all waited.  She had to be cut out of the car.  She was talking when she was going into surgery at the nearby Base Hospital but she never woke up after surgery and she never spoke to us again.

We sat by her bedside in ICU, knowing that there was nothing that could be done to save her.  That she was in the dreaded “persistent vegetative state”.  It has happened to others.  It happened to her.  It happened to our family – the reality you hope you will never have to face.  We knew her wishes.  Her Life Support was switched off.  She left a partner.  She was a daughter, a grand-daughter, a sister, a cousin, niece, an aunty, a godchild.  She had work colleagues, friends and countless grateful recipients who had benefitted from her passion for fairness, equality and true social inclusion for all, over many many years.  She loved and was loved dearly in return.

Our family were shattered.  She was our first born, the first grandchild on my side of the family.  I held her body as it lost its warmth and grew cold.  How do you go on after something like this.  How do you tell all those people who knew her, and her work – in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. 

There was a funeral in New South Wales and a Memorial Service in South Australia.   Many people came.  Our family went back to our lives, bereft!  Tania would never be present at any of our family gatherings again.  She would never be in any of our family photos from that point.  We would never again benefit from her quiet wisdom as she listened to our concerns about what the future might hold for us all.  The tears flowed.  There are constant reminders – Anniversaries, Milestones, Birthdays, Christmas and Easter.  I see all three vehicles that were involved, constantly as I drive and I recall the images of the accident scene on the internet.  Graphic.  Horrible.

We scattered Tania’s ashes according to her wishes, in the place where she had grown up.  It was on the second anniversary of her death.  It brought me a sense of peace.  Her spirit was now free.

So why am I writing this, my eyes brimming with tears, my heart aching for the loss of this precious child?  Because along this journey we have had the company of others who, like us, have lost a precious member of their family – suddenly, unbelievably, with no chance to say goodbye.

We were given the contact number of the Road Trauma Support Team of SA and we went along to their Support Group Meetings, which were held monthly.  Slowly, at first.  My youngest daughter to one meeting, then my husband and I and then all three of us.  We met others who understood how we felt.  There was no need to explain ourselves and we knew how they were feeling.  We followed their journeys and they followed ours.  Everyone’s story was different, but there was that common thread.  We know it was okay to cry in front of them and we cried with them as they recounted how they were travelling.  Amazingly, we laughed together.  Genuine laughter, because life was still good.  They became our ‘special family’ and hard as it has been, we have joined together for social gatherings and more serious activities in support of the Road Trauma Support Team’s efforts. 

I hope Tania’s accident will influence the safe driving habits of those who were privileged to know her.  We all need to be responsible for our own driving actions when we are using the roads along with other people, because the pain of this loss we have experienced never goes away.  We live with it every day.  Tania didn’t deserve to have her life cut short because of someone else’s driving error.  She had so much still to offer.

“Drive Safely”? The life lost could be yours.  Or it could be someone else’s death that you have to live with. Either way, our family’s pain could be your family’s pain.

We didn’t think we would ever need the help of the Road Trauma Support Team but we have been grateful for their presence.

If you wish to have your story or tribute posted on our website please forward to info@roadtraumasupportsa.com.au along with your contact details.