A Warrawong mother has told how an out-of-control truck sent parked vehicles flying through the air “like little Matchbox cars” as it ploughed through the car park at Fairy Meadow McDonald’s, narrowly missing her and her young son.
Vickie O’Donnell had not long dropped her daughter at work in nearby North Wollongong, when she made her usual coffee stop at the fast-food restaurant on Monday morning.
Little did she know at the time, but this Maccas trip would be dramatically different to any other – and a couple of decisions may have saved her life and that of her 10-year-old son, Daniel.
Moments after the pair walked across the car park – having just ordered food and used the toilet – a runaway truck left the Mount Ousley Road/Princes Highway roundabout and ploughed through a fence.
The truck then struck multiple vehicles in the car park, before careering through the restaurant’s drive-thru area and slamming into a unit complex.
“I was actually going to park where the truck went through [the fence], but I can’t park straight so I parked over here [near Outback Steakhouse a few metres away],” a shaken, yet comical, Ms O’Donnell told the Mercury.
“We’d just come out of Maccas. My son had just got in the car and I was standing here [next to her car] having a cigarette. The next you know, the truck’s just come flying over the roundabout, through the trees [and] through the cars.
“It was just flinging cars around like little Matchbox cars, it was like a monster truck, and then it’s just cleaned up the white car and pushed it into the flats.
“I just screamed at my son to stay in the car and went running over to the white car, and just started screaming to people that the lady was trapped.”
The 43-year-old wasn’t the only bystander to spring into the action in the seconds that followed the crash.
“All these guys came running over. It was just amazing how everyone started helping, they weren’t fearing for their own safety,” she said.
“There was like 20 guys over there, there was water everywhere and stuff flowing out of the truck and they didn’t care, they were just trying to open the door.
“Everyone was helping each other, they got the door open and they were talking to the lady … there was people with the truck guy.”
Ms O’Donnell described the scene as “just crazy”, adding the accident “happened so fast” and the truck “wasn’t slowing down when it hit the cars”.
Young Daniel was in shock but had “kept it together”, she said.
“I’m the one losing it and he’s like ‘Mum stare at me, look at me, it’s OK’,” she said.
With the passing of time came the realisation of just how lucky the pair had been – and how different decision-making could have resulted in a different outcome.
“I feel literally sick, it could have been me,” Ms O’Donnell said.
“We would have been in the car where the truck came through if I could park better; that’s all I keep thinking.
“Normally I come here and I go through the drive-thru and just grab a coffee, but because we needed to use the toilet we went in.
“I’m actually quite glad I wasn't in the drive-thru.”