The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday 22 October, 2006

Crash claims four near Byron

By Sam Marsden

A COMMUNITY is in mourning after four teenage boys died in a car crash near Byron Bay on NSW's north coast.

The boys, three aged 16 and one 17, were passengers in a Holden Commodore that veered off the road at Broken Head early on Sunday morning.

All four died at the scene, but the car's 17-year-old driver miraculously escaped with only minor injuries and is being treated at Lismore Base Hospital. The car hit several trees before stopping on an embankment.

NSW Police said no other vehicles were involved in the crash just after midnigh and they were investigating whether excess speed contributed to the accident.

It is understood that the teenagers were returning home from a party in Byron Bay at the time of the crash. Police have taken a blood sample from the driver and will analyse it to discover if he had alcohol or drugs in his system.

The crash victims were all from the town of Goonellabah near Lismore, police said. Three of the boys attended Kadina High School, while a fourth was a former student.

Principal Stephen Lowndes issued a statement saying the entire school community was devastated at the tragic loss.

"The contribution of these students to our school was significant. They were valued members of our school community and will be greatly missed,'' Mr Lowndes said.

"The school extends its deepest sympathies to the families of these students and wishes the other student in the accident a speedy recovery.''

The school will provide support for students and staff, with additional counselling staff made available.

Lismore Mayor Merv King expressed his condolences to the boys' families on behalf of the local community.

"Sympathy goes out from the people of Lismore and Goonellabah to the relatives and friends of those who were involved,'' he said.

Meanwhile, councillors for the area where the accident occurred said they had repeatedly raised concerns about the safety of local roads.

Peter Westheimer, deputy mayor of Byron Shire Council, said the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) of NSW had been "spectacularly unresponsive'' to calls for speed limit reductions on local roads.

"The council and the community have many times raised the issue of the fact that local roads are narrow, windy and used not only by a lot of locals but also by a lot of tourists as well, and many of them should have the speed limit reduced,'' he said.

A woman from Broken Head, who asked not to be named, confirmed there were a large number of accidents on The Coast Road, where the crash happened.

The Pedestrian Council of Australia (PCA) called for the minimum age to be raised for P-plate drivers from 17 to 18.

PCA chairman Harold Scruby urged the NSW government to ban P-plate drivers from carrying more than one passenger from 11pm until dawn.

"The evidence is overwhelming. Young drivers, late at night, with a car full of friends, are a recipe for disaster, especially on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights,'' he said.

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