Horror stories don’t have to be written: It’s every police officer’s nightmare

By Ivy Jensen

IT’S A dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Attending a fatality is without a doubt one of the worst jobs a police officer will face in their career.

Mangled bodies. Bloodied children. The stench of death. It’s carnage.

It’s no wonder PTSD is so rife within the force.

According to Murray River Police District Inspector Paul Huggett, responding to fatal accidents never gets easier.

‘‘I couldn’t count how many I’ve attended in my career,’’ he said.

‘‘You still get a shudder down your spine.

‘‘When you hear of a fatal, whether it be in Queensland, Afghanistan or in your district, it still brings back memories of deceased people you have seen.

‘‘When you attend a fatality you just want to give these people some form of dignity but you can’t because it’s a crime scene.

‘‘I remember this one little girl, her pants had come down because of the force of the crash and all I wanted to do was just pull them up for her but I couldn’t. The poor little darling. It was heartbreaking.’’

Insp. Huggett said the ripple effect of fatalities and serious crashes were far-reaching and would be felt for years and decades later.

‘‘From the emergency services workers who are first on scene to the nurses and doctors, and then the families, friends, work colleagues and the community as a whole, the ripple effect is tragic especially in small communities,’’ he said.

This was echoed by Sergeant Paul Nicoll of Campaspe Highway Patrol who said he never forgot the fatalities he had attended over the years. And there have been too many to count.

‘‘They all stay with you and you remember when and where they happened,’’ he said.

‘‘I try not to dwell on them though. Time is a great healer.’’

From December 14 to January 6, Campaspe police will saturate the roads as part of its holiday campaign — Operation Roadwise.

Highway patrol, uniform officers, heavy vehicle and special taskforce units will once again be targeting speeding, distraction offences, fatigue and impaired driving.

And Booze and drug buses will be on the roads,’’ he said.

‘‘We expect to catch more drug drivers than drunk drivers by a huge amount.

‘‘There’s been a real shift in the past few years. People seemed to have learnt about drink driving but not about drug driving.’’

His message to motorists was simple.

‘‘Plan your holidays in advance and take your time to get there, don’t rush,’’ he said.

‘‘If you are planning on having a drink, make sure you have a designated driver.

‘‘We want to ensure everyone has a safe and happy Christmas.’’

Insp. Huggett is also hoping this Christmas won’t be one of tragedy.

‘‘Inattention, not driving to the conditions, texting, intoxication and speed all contribute significantly to road trauma,’’ Insp. Huggett said.

‘‘These days, we’re too selfish in our needs and can’t wait 10 minutes to get across the intersection or to pull over to check our phones.’’

So this Christmas, particularly if you’re travelling long distances, remember Insp. Huggett’s words.

‘‘Stop, revive and survive. Plan breaks, make sure your car is serviceable and don’t speed,’’ he said.

‘‘We want you to get to your destination alive.’’