Flowers, tears and schools in shock

How a teenage girl's dream present from her father became the catalyst for a nightmare

The Daily Telegraph

Thursday 1 July 2004



A CAR accident on Sydney's North Shore has shattered a family and devastated two girls' schools.

Jade Graham, of Cremorne, died instantly after the car she was travelling in slammed into a brick wall and flipped onto its roof in Mosman.

The Year 12 student from Wenona school at North Sydney was in the back of a girlfriend's brand new silver Peugeot, along with three of her best mates from Queenwood girls' school, late on Tuesday night when the accident happened.

The sleek little car is believed to have been a gift to the 17-year-old driver from her father for gaining her provisional driver's licence last week.

Police are still determining what caused the girl to lose control of the car, but residents say a tricky curve in the road requires drivers to be alert.

The driver was discharged from Manly Hospital yesterday after she was treated for a head laceration and bruising.

Two other passengers are recovering in Royal North Shore Hospital.

One of the girls remains in a critical condition with head injuries, while the other has been stabilised after undergoing surgery to her right hand.

A police spokeswoman said Ms Graham's parents had been in Berry at the time of the accident and only learned the tragic news yesterday when they returned to their Cremorne home.

Outside Wenona school, grieving friends of Ms Graham said they couldn't believe their friend had died.

Wearing their 2004 Year 12 school jerseys, the girls hugged each other and cried, while more than 30 Queenwood students comforted one another at the Raglan St scene of the crash.

Sobbing girls, many also wearing their Year 12 jerseys, tied flowers to a nearby tree and signed a large card for the victims, including Jade.

“She knew all the Queenwood girls really well,” one said.

The Queenwood girls who were involved in the accident have yet to be interviewed by police.

Telstra technicians were still repairing wires damaged in the accident as the girls gathered at the scene to remember their friends.

Local residents heard the crash and hurried to help the girls.

“I heard a crash and I heard a girl screaming, ‘Help, help, help me',” neighbour Angeline Low said.

“She was calling to her friends to get out of the car ... the other girls were strapped in the car ... they were telling the other girl, `Talk to us', but she wasn't responding.”

Neighbours said the crash was the only one in recent memory, but cars often sped down Raglan St and nearby Musgrave Rd.

Owen Eather was one of the first to reach the wreckage after the crash.

“I heard a screech of brakes and squealing tyres and then a loud thump,” he said.

“I ran outside and my heart was in my mouth.

“The doors wouldn't open and the car was looking unstable,” he said.

Both schools have expressed their sadness and sympathy to Ms Graham's family.

Queenwood principal Kem Bray said: “We are devastated by news of this tragic accident.

“The school will be doing all it can to support the students who were injured and other students and staff at this time. The school has professional counsellors to help,” Mrs Bray said.

Teachers also were on hand at Wenona yesterday to counsel distraught students.


Link with young drivers

THE Mosman tragedy follows a spate of fatal accidents involving young drivers, including:

  • Four members of the Ervin family and French exchange student Elisabeth Chambon killed last month when their car collided with a truck on the Midland Highway, northwest of Melbourne. Learner driver Brooke Ervin was driving the family's Holden Commodore
  • Sam Turner and Billy O'Connor, students at St Ignatius Riverview, were killed when the car they were travelling in spun out of control in wet conditions in April last year. The driver of the car was cleared of dangerous driving charges in January
  • A 20-year-old Central Coast man was killed when his Holden Commodore slammed into a power pole in Lisarow last week. Police said the man lost control on a sweeping bend in Fagans Rd


Aftermath of tragedy ... Clockwise from left: Friends console each other at crash scene; The overturned car; One of the victims is taken to hospital; Police and ambulance officers treat one of the injured girls