Father relives horror Gap accident
IT was raining heavily the night Michael Bourke and his family nearly died travelling up Cunningham’s Gap.
They were in a Holden Commodore, with a semi-trailer behind them, when a rock the size of a small house crashed down the mountain and onto their car.
Miraculously Michael, his wife Felicity together with their two-year-old son Mitchell and a family friend escaped with shock and minor injuries.
That was seven years ago, but the memory of the nightmarish accident haunts them.
“The boulder landed on the bonnet of the car; if we’d been five metres quicker we wouldn’t be here,” Mr Bourke said.
That night the Bourkes were rapidly retrieved by ambulance officers and emergency service workers, who feared further rock falls.
These days the Warwick father finds an alternative route to Brisbane if it’s wet, refusing to run the gauntlet of rock slides notorious through “The Gap.’
Yet the close call has made Mr Bourke a staunch advocate for improving road safety on the steep section on the Cunningham Highway.
Yesterday he welcomed news the Department of Transport and Main Roads would start a four-week maintenance program to stabilise cliff sides through The Gap.
“Any work which makes the highway safer has to be a positive,” Mr Bourke said.
“The night of our accident it had been raining heavily, it was very dark and the first we knew about a landslide was a rumbling sound above us.
“It was terrifying. The rock hit the front of the car and other smaller rocks crashed through the windows.
“But we knew we had to get out of the vehicle, because there was a semi behind us and our lights weren’t working.”
So they stood huddled in the rain, in the darkness, behind the boulder, struggling to make sense of the scene.
It is a story former Fisher Park Truck Stop manager Russell Mellare finds alarmingly familiar.
In his four years at the service station he has lost count of the number of serious accidents on The Gap.
“Something happened every week, a truck lost it on a bend or a steep stretch of road or something more serious,” Mr Mellare said.
“I remember a young fellow come in one night and he’d seen a mate go over the side in a truck.
“He was in shock; no one ever wants to see something like that.”
Like many locals Mr Mellare would like to see some major improvements to the section of highway.
Earlier this week the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads said the issue of an upgrade of Cunningham’s Gap was the domain of the Federal Government.
A Main Roads spokeswoman said a proposal had been sent to the Federal Government in July 2008 asking for $30 million over four years to improve road-user safety through The Gap.
“But to date we have received no response from Federal Government.”
Last night a spokesman for Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the Cunningham Highway proposal had arrived after submissions closed making it ineligible for inclusion in the $8.6 billion six-year program which started in 2008/09.
“The proposal could be eligible for national highway funding under the round which starts 2013/14 if it is still considered a priority by the Queensland department,” he said.
“At a federal level we are very much guided by the advice of states, when it comes to funding national road projects.”