Grey nomad Brian Bell was driving along a road in New South Wales when a powerful willy willy came out of nowhere and blew his caravan off the road, leaving his wife seriously injured. Here, he recalls the terrifying experience.
“In early August this year I was towing our 22’ van travelling south east along Federation Way in southern NSW at a speed of about 75k/ph. There was a strong westerly wind blowing into the right side of the vehicle. This made me decide to slow down a bit.
At 3pm we were about seven kilometres from Urana when suddenly a willy willy struck us from the left hand side moving the whole rig across the road to the right. I immediately hit the trailer brakes, but they had no effect as we went off the bitumen onto the grass verge, then into a table drain. I tried to steer down the table drain as there were no trees, but as the van dropped into the drain, it pushed the rear of the car up the wall of the drain causing us to flip in mid air onto the roof.
Looking back at my dashcam it took 10 seconds from the car to start moving across the road to stopping upside down with us hanging in our seatbelts. My partner suffered a broken neck and was taken to Wagga Wagga hospital then flown by air ambulance to Sydney. She was operated on and had two screws inserted in her neck. I didn’t feel any injuries at the time and stayed at the scene until the vehicles were recovered. I received torn tendons in both shoulders for which I am now receiving treatment. Neither of us had any other injuries, thanks to seatbelts.
Maree is now recovering well and after three months in a neckbrace is doing physio to strengthen her neck. I have driven trucks including incredibly powerful triple road trains for over 50 years, but you cannot overcome Mother Nature.
There is a lot of chat about caravan accidents at the present time about inexperienced vanners and load distribution, but my accident proves no matter how prepared you are, an incident like this can happen at any time. If we had been travelling 10-15 km/h faster it could have been a different outcome.
Although we are still traumatised and having counselling and physio sessions, we are giving it another go. We have another car and took delivery of a brand new van yesterday.”