They called the Princes Highway intersection with Mt Ousley Road at Fairy Meadow a "deathtrap" - and that was decades ago in 1952. GLEN HUMPHRIES looks back at its chequered - and sometimes deadly - past.
It’s a story that sounds all too familiar.
The driver of a truck coming down Mt Ousley Road puts his foot on the brake pedal but finds it does nothing.
The brakes have failed and he careens towards the Princes Highway intersection at Fairy Meadow.
With no way of stopping, he blows through the intersection – somehow not colliding with any other vehicles – before finally coming to rest on the other side.
This particular story happened on January 3, 1946 – more than 70 years before Monday’s truck accident at Fairy Meadow.
And it’s far from the only time that has happened
On that summer day in 1946, Oscar Richards was behind the wheel and John Hancock was in the passenger seat.
The pair was driving a load of furniture down the hill at Mt Ousley when the brakes failed half a kilometre from the intersection.
Back then the eastern side of the intersection was a paddock, and the truck smashed through the fencing before finally coming to rest.
Richards suffered lacerations and rib injuries while Hancock walked away with cuts and scrapes – but others driving through that intersection would not be so lucky.
Concerns about the intersection has been raised a year earlier, when it was deemed busy enough to warrant placing a “halt” sign there.
And in a sign that ignoring traffic rules is far from a modern condition, for decades afterwards drivers would be brought before the courts for driving straight through the intersection without stopping.
In terms of accidents, the next one to make the papers was in 1949, when an inebriated Albert Forrest mistook the accelerator for the brake pedal and barrelled through the intersection, taking out the fencing around the paddocks where McDonald’s now sits.
In June 1951, a bus full of footballers collided with a car at the intersection while November of that year saw a truck overturn – in both cases bumps and scratches were the worst injuries suffered.
The following year, the first major accident occurred at the intersection – but the actions of a truck driver stopped it from being so much worse.
Ian Murray and his wife Betty were in the cabin of a truck carrying seven tonnes of cardboard cartons when the brakes failed.
He then changed gears to try and slow the truck but it continued to gather speed.
Looking ahead to the Princes Highway intersection, he saw it was heavy with traffic, and so steered off the road and into a field on the left of Mt Ousley Road.
The truck ploughed 45 metres through the ground before hitting a tree and snapping it in two. The petrol tanks were pierced and diesel poured out.
Despite being thrown from the cabin, Ian was miraculously unhurt. Betty was trapped in the truck but she was freed with little more than a few scrapes.
Just six days later, on April 30, another truck came to grief at the intersection.
Leonard Munday lost control of his trailer loaded with 10 tonnes of metal pipes when the coupling attaching the truck to the trailer snapped.
His brakes failed as he approached the intersection, yet still tried to turn right onto the highway but flipped the truck and spilt his load.
Those two accidents in the space of six days led speakers at a Road Safety Council meeting way in May 1952 to brand the intersection “a deathtrap”.
In an echo of today’s concerns, one speaker was worried about what would happen if a bus got in the way of an out-of-control truck speeding down Mt Ousley Road.
Two years later it happened yet again.
A truck carrying fine coal lost the ability to brake, driver Charles Vella telling police the pedal went “flat to the floor”.
He leant on the horn and waved his arms out of the window to warn motorists on the busy Princes Highway.
Vella tried to make a right turn while travelling at 60km/h but a rear tyre blew out and the truck rolled over into the paddocks.
Yet again, the injuries were no worse that a few cuts and bruises.
That fatality-free streak ended on December 19, 1955.
Joseph Peterson died instantly when his car was sliced in two by a runaway truck that had lost its brakes while coming down the steep hills of Mt Ousley.
His daughter Shirley, a passenger in the car, was taken to Wollongong Hospital with head injuries.
The pattern of crashes at the intersection continued over the years – including an incident in 1972 where an out-of-control truck couldn’t use the safety ramp at the bottom of the mountain because a “picnicker” had parked in front of it.
He saw traffic across the Princes Highway intersection so aimed for the biggest gap he could find and “hoped for the best”.
Perhaps the worst tragedy occurred in the early hours of Tuesday, August 27.
Kurt James Jones was behind the wheel of his truck, carrying a load of magazines, paint and fencing wire on his truck.
He shot through the Princes Highway intersection and landed in a creek bed, the cabin crushed up against an embankment with Jones inside.
With no sign of the truck’s path visible in daylight and the vehicle itself hidden from the road, Jones’ body laid there for three days while police conducted a road and air search for the missing driver.
A resident near the intersection had heard a loud noise at 1am on Tuesday but after they got up, they could not see any sign of an accident.
Days later they connected the search for the missing driver to that noise, so they scoured the area and found the truck – its load strewn across the embankment and the cabin crushed.
In 1999, resident Chris Cartledge wrote into the Mercury stating “a runaway vehicle ploughing into the car park is a likelihood in our lifetime”.
He was right – that’s what happened both in 2006 and again last Monday.
Then again, it’s something that’s been happening for decades.