Couple who tried to rescue Falkholt sisters remember horror
The Falkholt family will forever remain in Darrin and Jo Collier’s hearts.
A wooden cross, hand-made by Darrin, now marks the spot where one year ago they desperately tried to save Lars, Vivian, Annabelle and Jessica, from a wreckage that cost them their lives.
“It was so unfair,” Jo told A Current Affair.
“They were a beautiful family – the whole family – that, just in an instant, was wiped out.”
Darrin, Jo and their two teenage sons were travelling to the New South Wales South Coast for a family holiday, when they noticed a four-wheel-drive darting in and out of busy Boxing Day traffic.
“Darrin actually said before it happened, ‘I think that car is going to cause an accident,” Jo recalled.
“We rounded the corner and, sure enough, it was that car in the middle of the road, spun around.”
Darrin pulled over and ran across the road to the wreckage, while Jo told their boys to stay in the backseat.
“Please close your eyes – you won’t be able to unsee whatever you see,” she warned.
The crumpled cars were so close together, Darrin could stand between them and touch both.
Searching for any sign of life, he heard a murmur from the backseat of the Falkholt’s car. It was Annabelle.
“She was conscious, she was actually trying to get out of the car,” Darrin recalled.
“I’m reassuring her, saying, ‘Sit down, relax, ambulance services are on their way.”
Jessica, an up-and-coming actress, was also barely alive.
“The situation was pretty dire,” Darrin said.
“It was something you don’t wish anyone to ever, ever see.”
The sisters were still trapped when the wreckage caught alight.
“We cut the seatbelts and we got Annabel out first, and we just ran back – probably 15, 20 metres maybe – and then we just ran straight back, grabbed Jessica and we took her straight out as well,” Darrin said.
“You sit there and think, ‘What if that was one of my kids?’ It would be terrible.”
Jo was flagging down passing trucks and caravans, hoping the small fire extinguishers on board would douse the flames.
“You wish that you could have Superman there, to lift the car away from the scene,” she said.
Jo’s 10-year-old son, Josh, was in the back seat of their car. He could see the blaze, but he’d lost sight of his dad, who was at the Falkholt’s car behind.
“[Josh] was screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘Dad, get out of there!’” Jo recalled.
“Then he looks at me… ‘Mum, whatever you do, get dad out of there!"
While Jo wishes her boys didn’t look at the horror, she hopes they’ve learned from it.
“My son who is not long off getting his Ls saw that accident and he said to me afterwards, ‘Mum, I wish I hadn’t have seen that, but I think it was good for me to see it because now I know what can happen on the road'.”
Annabelle died in hospital three days after the crash, while Jessica clung to life for three weeks.
Her family invited Darrin and Jo to visit her in hospital.
“It was obvious how serious her injuries were, she was in intensive care,” Darrin recalled.
“I said this to the family, ‘She looks so peaceful'.”
Darren was devastated to hear of Jessica’s death, six days after her life support was turned off.
“I was gutted, I was really upset,” he said.
“I felt really bad after saying to her, ‘You’re going to be all right'.”
More than a year on, Darrin, Jo and their boys struggle to move forward.
“This is an incident that happened in a second and has ramifications that last a lifetime,” Jo said.
“It could have been us in that accident, just as easily.”
The Collier’s hope everyone who reads their story will take extra care on the roads.
“Please drive to the conditions,” Darrin said.
“If it takes you 10 minutes to get where you want to be or a little bit longer, so what? What’s the worst that can happen? A whole family could get wiped out - that’s the worst that can happen.”
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019