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Horrific loss: ‘If only I could hold him again’

FEW know the face of human tragedy - and loss of loved ones - in the state's fatal road toll like Cary Coolican.

The Cairns Police Sergeant (pictured) was close to three of the 216 victims killed on Queensland roads this year. One was her brother.

"I've seen horrific sights," the police officer and mother-of-four said.

"(I've) heard many screams of anguish and held distraught family members as they identify their loved ones as a result of fatal crashes.

"The sad part is, I still see those images and hear those screams today."

Cairns Police Sergeant Cary Coolican. Picture: Brendan Radke
Cairns Police Sergeant Cary Coolican. Picture: Brendan Radke

But nothing prepared her for the triple whammy of a very personal road trauma and death tally this year.

In a powerful message, Sgt Coolican, 51, has broken her silence about her own heartache behind the three deaths to urge road safety.

With a kind face and gentle heart, the former first response officer and forensic crash investigator has delivered the "dreaded death message" and helped distraught families identify their loved ones at the hospital morgue.

"We often talk of the ripple effect a fatal crash can cause in the community and this year, that ripple has hit me hard,'' she said.

"Three people on our fatal list were known to me."

To date, there have been 31 road fatalities in the far north.

One grim statistic was her younger brother, 48, killed early this year in a motorbike crash on the Atherton Tablelands.

"I knew him all his life and never thought a fatal crash would claim him,'' she said.

"He was flown to Townsville Hospital with severe head trauma and our family waited for signs of life. We rued results each time it wasn't good news. After 19 days in intensive care, he passed in palliative care, our mum by his side.

"As family, you relive cherished childhood memories, question why and ponder what could have been.

"You are left with heartache that remains for life and yearn for just one moment more to hold them and tell them how much they are loved."

Sgt Coolican asked we not name the other two road crash victims - both teenagers in the bloom of life - out of respect for grieving families.

She had known one, an 18-year-old lad, since he was a toddler with her son at family day care in Cairns.

The other, a 16-year-old girl, was a close family friend.

"Fatal crashes can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere," Sgt Coolican said.



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