Fraser Island crash victim’s family launches petition
THE heartbroken family of a British backpacker who was killed in a rollover while taking part in a tagalong tour of Fraser Island have spoken out about their concern there is a lack of safety that could lead to other deaths on the island.
Jade Fox, 22, was killed when the four-wheel drive she was a passenger in rolled on October 31 last year.
Her parents, Chris and Melanie, have started a petition to try to improve safety standards for tagalong tours on the island, including ensuring anyone driving a vehicle is over 25 years-of-age and had rigorous training before being able to drive on Fraser Island.
So far the petition has attracted more than 5600 signatures.
Sergeant Steve Webb from the Wide Bay Burnett Forensic Crash Unit spends much of his time trying to prevent fatal crashes and said there had been seven crashes or rollovers on Fraser Island in 14 months.
There were no injuries in three of those crashes, while the other three resulted in minor injuries.
There was one fatal crash - the crash that killed Jade.
Sgt Webb will be attending a meeting in Brisbane today which will involve a discussion of tagalong tours on Fraser Island and any safety issues that need to be addressed.
A spokeswoman from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service said the meeting would involve the QPWS, the Transport Department and the Queensland Police.
"This meeting will focus on safety issues related to tagalong operations," the spokeswoman said.
"Tagalong tours were mandated to improve safety, which will be a key consideration in considering the format.
"Safety of park visitors is always our number one priority."
Sgt Webb said compared to other areas in the state, Fraser Island was doing fairly well statistically.
He said tagalong tours had made a big difference in terms of safety, but that didn't mean there wasn't more that could be done.
But what it boiled down to, Sgt Webb said, was people being accountable for their own safety and the safety of others.
"You can change the rules and regulations all you like; at the end of the day people need to take responsibility for their actions," he said.
It wasn't a realistic proposition to put a police officer on every corner to make sure people were doing the right thing, Sgt Webb said.
But people behaving and driving in a dangerous manner on the island is an ongoing issue.
Jade's father, Chris, had the grim task of coming to Australia to bring his daughter's body home.
While he was in Australia, he visited Fraser Island with the police and watched as a tagalong tour drove by.
Chris watched as a car full of young people hung out of the windows of the car, "messing around" Melanie wrote in an email sent to APN.
The police pulled the car over and fined those inside the car, but the incident hammered home to Jade's family how dangerous reckless behaviour on the island could be.
"Accidents will still happen, of course, but this accident was preventable and if we can reduce this risk then Jade's death will not have been in vain," Melanie said.
The family has received emails from other people, telling them they have felt unsafe on tagalong tours.
When the vehicle rolled, it took paramedics an hour and a half to reach the scene of the crash, time that could have meant life or death for their daughter, Chris and Melanie believe.
Sgt Webb agreed with the family's comments, adding that he had seen that kind of behaviour himself on the island.
Getting comment from tagalong tour providers was difficult, with several not wanting to talk about the safety of the tours on Fraser Island.
Two of the tours declined to comment because a manager was not available to talk.
An industry insider, who spoke to APN on the condition of anonymity, said he had made sure to limit tagalong tours offered by his business to just three cars - that way a good amount of control could be kept over the other vehicles in the convoy.
He also ensured an experienced lead driver who was familiar with the island was always at the helm, someone who could maintain control.
Tragic story of a young life cut short
SHE was 22 years old with her whole life ahead of her.
Eleven days before Jade Fox died, she added a simple status update to her Facebook page, which read "Love my life, just saying".
On October 31, Jade was killed when the vehicle she was a passenger in as part of a tagalong tour of Fraser Island rolled over.
In an email to APN, Jade's devastated mother Melanie shared her family's pain and described how the loss of their daughter and sister had changed their lives.
Described as a happy and kind girl who had many friends, Jade also had two sisters, Yasmine, 24, and Amy, 19,
Both have been deeply affected by the loss of Jade, with Amy quitting her job and taking antidepressants and Yasmine receiving counselling.
"This tragedy has affected so many lives," Melanie wrote.
"Jade met so many people during her short time in Aus and was loved by them all, in fact when she died over 40 of them walked to Sydney harbour and let off balloons with messages tied to them and videoed it, which we played at her funeral."
It had long been Jade's dream to travel to Australia.
When she arrived here, she got a job in Sydney and started saving up so she could see more of the country.
"Jade and her friends had always wanted to go to Australia for the weather, wildlife, beautiful beaches and scenery and laid back lifestyle and saved hard for a year to make it happen," Melanie wrote.