My name is Ian, but most call me Parkie. At work, I am a Senior Sergeant in the Queensland Police Service and my role is District Duty Officer (on the road supervisor) in the Inner West Patrol Group of Brisbane. Away from work I’m mostly like everyone else – a husband, a father, a son, a friend… you get the idea. I normally try and keep my ‘work world’ separate from my ‘home world’. But sometimes those two worlds collide. This is the story of one of those times. I hope you have time to read it.
My wife Kerry and I first met Sarah many years ago through Kerry’s sister. Sarah has become a good friend of ours. She is also many things – a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend… But like many other single mothers she hoped to one day be a wife to the prince of her dreams. She waited and prayed patiently for a long time for this dream to be fulfilled.
Not so long ago, we learned that Sarah had met someone, a man named Dave. And together they were very happy. Sure, they had to face the challenges of a blended family, but their love was real and they worked hard to find a way through. It seemed that Sarah had finally met her prince.
Sarah had mentioned to us a number of times that she wanted us to meet and get to know Dave, but through the busyness of our lives, this didn’t happen before we had the chance to celebrate their wedding on a Thursday in October 2015. It was a wonderful wedding. I met Dave briefly at the bar and we chatted as you do. But I didn’t have time to get to know him. I figured there was plenty of time for that down the track.
So there were lots of things I didn’t know about Dave. I didn’t realise he had a love for motorcycling. I didn’t know how exactly old he was, or where he lived. I didn’t know when his birthday was. But I did know that he and Sarah were in love. And that was enough for me.
I had to work right across the Christmas long weekend. It was now Boxing Day – my Dad’s birthday. I was pretty much heading back to my office to finish off my duty log for the day and go home to my family when I heard the call over the radio about a motorcyclist that had gone over the edge of Mt Nebo. I turned around to make the drive up the mountain. About five minutes before I got to the scene, the message went out that the Ambos had done all they could and had discontinued their efforts to revive the rider and he had now passed away.
I went into ‘police supervisor mode’ assuming like the other three road fatalities I had attended this year and the numerous others in my career, that the rider would be someone I didn’t know. By the time I got there, he had already been covered by a sheet and was left where he had passed away, awaiting the arrival of our Forensic Crash Investigators. I had no reason to climb down the embankment to see his face, I’ve seen plenty before.
I asked if anyone had the rider’s name. An ambo showed me a page from his notebook where he had copied his details from the licence in his pocket. Look at that. He had the same name as Dave, but not an uncommon name. And today was his birthday – just like my Dad. I tried to get some more information from my iPad, but reception on the mountain is patchy and I had to rely on phone calls instead. The rider lived in a suburb of Ipswich with someone of an age likely to be his Mum. I arranged for her to be advised. No indication on our systems of a wife or anyone else. No reason to change my assumption that I did not know him.
It wasn’t until I got back to my office that I did some more checks. My heart sank. I knew now there was no coincidence… The rider was Dave.
I dropped in to see Sarah on my way home. My colleagues who had delivered what we call ‘the death message’ were just leaving. Sarah’s sister Emma opened the door for me. She was with Sarah waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. As I sat beside her and held her hand, Sarah said, “I’m pregnant.” I had been pre-warned and told her I knew. “I don’t want to raise another one alone,” she cried.
What do you say to that?
Your friends, your family and your Lord love you Sarah. We are with you all the way.
So why am I posting this story?
The unfortunate reality is that every year motorcyclists are proportionally over represented in our road toll. It’s just a fact. Unfortunately, the Queensland road toll was higher in 2015 than in 2014.
At the moment, we don’t know why Dave went over the edge of that mountain. So I am not for a moment suggesting he was doing anything wrong. But whatever it was that happened, there is no second chance for him. Or for those that love and miss him.
While motorcycles aren’t personally my thing, I have lots and friends and family for whom they are. So I get it. I really do. I also get that life is full of risks – probably because of my job and I get that more than many.
So the message I hope to get out there through Dave and Sarah’s story is this:
Do what you enjoy. Do the things that make you happy. But all the while, do them in a way that recognises that you have a world of people to whom it matters that you come home safely.
We make decisions every day. We weigh up the ‘pros’ and the ‘cons’ whenever we do. When it comes to how and when you ride, or drive, or fly or whatever you do for fun or for work, remember the ones that you could leave behind.
If this story has touched you, I ask you to share it with others. But when you do, please tag in the names of anyone that it matters to you that they come home safely and add the hashtag #ridesafely4me.
If you are reading this because someone has tagged you in – please remember that you are loved, you are valued and most of all it matters to someone else that you come home safely. Make that primary in your thinking about how and when you ride, or drive, or fly.
Respect the roads. Respect your machine. Respect the rules. Respect yourself.
So, to all my friends and family, particularly those who ride – #ridesafely4me.
Thanks for reading
A fundraising page has been set up for Sarah. All funds raised will go to help covering the costs of this unexpected financial burdon on Sarah and Dave’s family.