Chevon Parker was a daddy’s girl. She loved going everywhere with her dad, David Parker – a truck driver for 13 years. Until tragedy hit.
On the 24th of April, 2008, Chevon and her dad, David, were heading to Brisbane on the Cunningham Highway at Karara, near Warwick, in southern Queensland, when his prime mover and refrigerated trailer left the road on a sweeping left-hand bend, hit a culvert and clipped trees shortly before 5am.
Chevon later told her mother, Mandy Parker, that after the truck came to a stop on its side, David realised he was trapped. Chevon tried looking for his phone but could only find a bottle of water. She started to wash the blood from her father’s hands, but David told his daughter to “Get out and go. Quick.” – insisting that she hurry up and get out of the wrecked cabin. She was only five years old.
“Daddy told me to hop out,” Chevon said. “He said ‘call out for help’. We had a drink and then he said ‘I love you, Princess’.”
Although trapped, David said his goodbyes to Chevon, before the truck caught fire. Chevon told her mum she could hear “wolves barking” as she waited on the lonely road near the burning truck. “She must have been so scared,” Mandy said. “We don’t know how long she was sitting there for. She has said a few things that have been horrible.”
Two Main Roads employees in separate vehicles were heading west when they came across the accident after it had happened. Paul Maher and Bruce Gillespie both agree that the incident is one they will never forget.
“We came over the hill just past the Karara pub,” said Paul. “I could see a column of smoke rising and the top of the fire and there was a ute there, with a bloke in it with a mobile phone in his hand. He’d called triple-0 and I said to him, do you think there’s anybody about? He said “Mate, I’m in a wheelchair.” To this day, the mystery man in the ute has never been identified.
Paying little regard for his own safety, Paul then approached the blaze and started calling out, with the light from the fire “more of a hindrance” in the otherwise pitch black. “I bolted to where it was happening,” Paul said. “I started singing out and all I got was this little girl.” Paul found Chevon about four or five metres from the truck, looking ‘knocked about’, with blood on her head. “I got her in my arms and away I went,” he said. As Paul walked away in the dark, there was an explosion. “I didn’t look back, put it that way,” he said. “What the poor little devil would have done had she been left there any longer, who knows.”
Moments later he found Bruce Gillespie and a family of three in a B-double which had also pulled up. “We wrapped the girl up in a coat and handed her to the lady in the truck, who kept her warm inside the cab,” Paul said.
Mandy’s sister, Kristy Parker, spoke to The Daily News: “We just want to say thank you to these two men for what they did for Chevon,” she said. “One of our greatest fears was that she was alone and afraid and it was a great comfort to us to find out someone was with her and was looking after her. To us, they are definitely our family’s heroes.”
This pair of cool heads in a crisis insist they are not heroes, with Paul saying they just “did what we had to do when you come across something like that. That girl, for her age, she was just amazing. She was really, really brave.”
Mr Maher and Mr Gillespie also paid tribute to the family in the B-double and the mystery man in the ute. “We don’t know who he was but he was as much a part of it as we were,” Bruce said.
Emergency Services soon arrived and Chevon was rushed to the Warwick Hospital before being transferred to the Brisbane Hospital. It would be an agonising 14 hours before being reunited with Mandy. Chevon had 20 stitches put in for the cut to her head and suffered burns on her back and feet.
After the accident that claimed her father’s life, Chevon was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and she still sees a counsellor regarding her fear of fire. Which is understandable!
She is an inspirational young girl and makes her family proud every day.
Has your family ever suffered a tragic loss? How did you get through the dark times?
Share your thoughts below.
Originally written by Brad Hayes for Kenworth World Wide.