4Wd Hire Fraser Island: Did you know ?
An overseas tourist was behind the wheel in almost half the serious four-wheel-drive accidents on Fraser Island beaches between 2003 and 2013, statistics provided to brisbanetimes reveal.
Queensland Transport is part-way through a review of driver behavior on Fraser Island beaches after three overseas tourist deaths this year involving four-wheel-drives.
In 19 of the 40 serious beach driving accidents on the island between 2003 and 2007,the driver held an international license. most of these overseas drivers were driving 4Wd Hire Vehicles.
Over the past five years there have been 114 people killed or injured in Fraser Island traffic accidents. Advertisement John Sinclair, from the Fraser Island Defenders Organization, said he thought the proportion of international drivers would have been higher.
“A person currently can get a license to drive a little Citroen in France and the
next week present that license to a hire company in Queensland to hire a troopie
to drive around 11 people.”
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Mr Sinclair said there needed to be tougher regulations on who could take four-wheel-drives to Fraser Island. He said it should be up to the Department of Environment and Resource Management to decide who could drive on Fraser Island and who could not.
“All of these accidents have happened in the easier parts of Fraser Island to drive
on, but to just travel on the beach requires skill and being able to ‘read’ the
beach and you don’t get that on your first visit.”
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“(DERM) could restrict visitors to Fraser Island to those who can show they have competency. “They should have to present [a] log book to show they’ve been to Fraser Island at least twice before and/or they’ve had other experience driving four-wheel-drives that gives them that degree of competency.”
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RACQ and Four Wheel Drive Queensland have also signaled tougher questions on driver competency. The Queensland Transport statistics show three of the five people killed in four-wheel-drive accidents on the island in the past five years were international visitors. Three of the five were passengers, one was a driver, and the fifth was a pedestrian.
The statistics came to light a day after a Japanese tourist, 25, died on Sunday after the four-wheel-drive in which he was a passenger swerved to either avoid waves
or deviations in the sand near the Dundubara Camping Ground. On April 18 this year, a 26-year-old Italian tourist and a 22-year-old British man were killed when the troop carrier they hired rolled, also near Dundubara Camping Ground.
“I strongly agree with the point made that a lot of drivers do not have enough experience to venture out on beaches, especially Fraser island. We at 4X4 Vehicle Hire Fraser Island always try to minimize the risk by screening applicants as best as humanly possible. This is however still not enough to ensure that incompetent drivers get behind the wheel. We don’t allow under 25 year old to drive and we also tend to stay away from group of friends going together. It is usually saver when a family make a booking etc.
Better legislation in this regard (implementing log book system etc) is crucial”
Dirk Kotze, 4X4 Hire Company Owner
Fraser Island Accident:
Minutes after this photo were taken the four-wheel-drive carrying 11 backpackers along a Fraser Island beach swerved violently to the left . . . and then began to roll.
“I think it rolled twice,” said German traveller Gereon Berster, who was seated in the back of the Land Cruiser with eight others.
Police say the vehicle could have rolled up to eight times along the water’s edge coming to a stop on its side with the roof crushed. Two passengers died and all the others were injured, two of them critically.
“I could hear the glass shattering and metal crunching,” Mr Berster said last week, as he recalled the accident which highlighted the perils for inexperienced drivers on the island.
“You could smell the diesel oil. It was horrible. I shouted ‘Get out, it might burn’. Then I had a blackout.”
When he came to, possibly less than a minute later, Mr Berster, 21, remembers looking around inside the mangled vehicle. Only himself and two others were there. The seven other passengers had been tossed out on to the sand.
“Yves (a Swiss doctor) was hanging by his seatbelt. He was unconscious. I helped him out of the seat belt and put him down and then I got out of the (broken) back window,” he said.
Mr Berster recalls looking up and down Seventy-Five Mile Beach and seeing no one to come to their aid.
“We were helpless,” he said.
Soon after, his German travelling companion Dominik Mueller, 22, wandered in a daze around the side of the wrecked vehicle.
They looked at each other and hugged. The pair were on a seat in the rear of the vehicle with two British travelers, Carl and Ricky (surnames of those involved are either not known or forgotten).
On a facing bench were Yves, a British backpacker called “Swati”, Yorkshireman Ian Davy and Italian Concetta dell’ Angelo. The latter two were killed in the accident.
In the front were two Norwegians, Henni and Thea, and the driver, whose name Mr Berster asked not to be published.
Mr Berster and Mr Mueller were the least injured and comforted the others as they waited for help.
“I saw the driver. His arm was broken like a snake,” Mr Berster said.
“He said, ‘Oh my God what have I done. I am so sorry’. I told him that it was not his fault.”
Mr Berster believes it may have been 10 minutes before another 4WD arrived. There was no mobile phone reception in the area – about 10km north of Dundaburra on the eastern side of the island – but it is understood someone used a CB radio to raise the alarm.
“At some point an ambulance came. I think it took about one-and-a-half or two hours,” Mr Berster said.
“I remember looking at somebody’s watch. It was 8.30am, he said the helicopter was coming. At 9.15am, the helicopter still hadn’t come. I was yelling at him, ‘Where is the helicopter, where is the helicopter?’
“I could hear everybody screaming. The helicopter finally arrived about two or three hours later.
“I couldn’t move. Then the pain started. I thought my leg was broken, my arm, my back. Everything was hurting.
“It took eight hours before I got to the hospital. To hear people screaming the whole time. It was horrible.”
Mr Mueller recalls comforting one of the injured passengers.
“This girl was lying on the ground. She couldn’t move her legs. I was sitting with her, holding her hand and telling her everything would be fine,” he said. “She asked me about her boyfriend . . . was he dead? I told her he was fine. I didn’t know what to say. I felt so guilty.”
He was, in fact, among the survivors, but remains in hospital in Brisbane.
Mr Berster and Mr Mueller said the driver was not to blame.
“We felt safe when he was driving. He was not going too fast. We weren’t doing anything stupid. We were just wanting to explore the beautiful island,” Mr Berster said.
The Fraser Island crash occurred on April 18, on the second day of a self-drive safari.
When they collected the 4WD at Hervey Bay they were told a safety video had to be viewed – but only seven of the group saw it.
Mr Berster and Mr Mueller were assigned to buy food. They packed the 4WD while the video was screening.
Mr Berster confirmed he had driven the vehicle on the beach on the first day of the tour, despite not having seen the safety video.
He said he felt “uneasy” on the sand and drove well below the speed limit (100km/h). He believed most of the group were wearing seat belts.
The pair said they now believed at least a day of training should be mandatory before anyone is allowed to drive on Fraser Island without a guide.
Last week, they wrote to Queensland authorities calling for a change to the island’s speed limit to 50km/h (the limit was reduced to 80km/h on Thursday, but it is not known if the letter played a part in the decision).
The Germans also suggested mandatory three-point seat belts in all vehicles (there were only lap-sashes in the back of their 4WD) and limiting the numbers of passengers allowed in self-drive tour vehicles.
They also called for better mobile phone coverage on Fraser Island, or working CB radios in all vehicles.
“We didn’t know that this could happen,” Mr Berster said.
“If we did, we would have gone on a guided tour instead.”