With the whites his eyes turned bloody red and his face badly swollen over a network of broken bones, Dean Allison is almost unrecognisable as the fit young father-of-one who had everything going for him.
Too injured to return to his job as an operator at Mount Kembla’s Dendrobium mine, he is waiting to have stabilising metal plates inserted into his broken face.
“I have a constant headache,” he said. “It feels like there’s heaps of pressure behind my eyes from all the swelling.”
“I’m not allowed to pick up [five-month-old son] Ashton, because it could affect the fractures in my face.”
“We’re living off my wage and now I’m going to be off work so it’s going to be a bit stressful, worrying about all that. I’ll know on Thursday when I’ll get the surgery done, but it will be months.”
It’s a life interrupted since Saturday night, when Mr Allison and his cousin Danny, celebrating Mr Allison’s 28th birthday, were allegedly set upon by a group of up 10 teenagers as they walked into Wollongong after attending the MTV Beats and Eats festival in Stuart Park.
The two men, and Danny’s girlfriend, were walking about 30 metres ahead of their large group of friends about 10.30pm when they turned a corner onto Corrimal Street and allegedly saw about 10 teenagers upending road signs and interfering with letterboxes.
“Danny said, ‘c’mon boys … you can’t be doing that’. We had to walk past them, and just started getting punched to the side of the head,” Mr Allison said.
“I was down on all fours and they were kicking me and punching me in the back of the head. That’s all I can really remember.”
Mr Allison’s injuries include two fractured eye sockets. Beside him, Danny lay on the roadside for four minutes, unconscious.
Patrolling police interrupted the alleged assault, hastily pulling to the side of the road and chasing the group, a move Mr Allison’s father Rod credits with saving his son’s life.
His fiance Maddy Green discovered him moments later.
“It was horrific,” she said. “I couldn't even make out what he looked like, he had blood running all the way down his face, out of his ears. Blood coming from his eye sockets. I didn’t really cry or anything until the next day. “You go into panic mode. You feel like you have to be OK for Dean.
“But it's really affected both of us, just to see him like this. He's normally so energetic and always goes to the gym or is doing something with Ashton. We always go for walks, swim in our pool, we love waterskiing and wakeboarding. He won't be able to do anything like that for ages.”
Four teenagers have since been charged in relation to the alleged assault, and released on bail.
The police investigation into the matter continues.
Anyone with information that could assist is urged to contact Wollongong Police (4226 7899) or Crime Stoppers (1800 333 000)