Take a look at this face. Her name is Jess Loch. She was 19 when she died on the Princes Highway in 2011. She is one of the reasons we are fighting so hard to have the Princes Highway fixed. We want to put a stop to the senseless loss of lives on the road that connects us to so many population centres on the South Coast.
Why is Jess so important in this endeavour?
We hope that by penetrating the shopworn old political excuses for inaction with very real, very human stories of loss and grief, we might just convince our politicians that it’s well past time they acted.
Imagine if they had acted more than seven years ago to fix the notorious stretch where we lost Jess. Yes, “we” lost her – the entire community. While her parents and siblings felt – and continue to feel – the immediate loss, all of us were denied Jess’s potential.
She was a kind and compassionate person who made friends easily and welcomed into her heart people who were doing it tough. Jess wanted to be a journalist and chances are, had the road just south of Wandandian been upgraded, she’d still be with us – a colleague perhaps, writing for this newspaper.
But no. For years, politicians dithered, offering every excuse under the sun for inaction. Instead of becoming that person, Jess was farewelled by 450 people at her funeral. Her roadside memorial sits alongside three others – all dedicated to young people whose potential was never realised.
We would like to see our politicians at the site of Jess’s accident. We want them to stop there and reflect on the tragedy – the deep melancholy – that haunts this section of highway.
To those politicians who have typecast campaigns for highway improvements as “emotive”, we are entirely unapologetic. If they spent an afternoon with grieving parents, they would understand why.
If they hear, as we have done, that many motorists have almost come to grief on the exact stretch of road where Jess died, they might just understand that for every unimaginable tragedy there have been dozens of near misses.
We’ve heard of people losing control in the rain in the same place. We know it is only a matter of time before a near miss becomes a tragedy and parents like Susan and Brad Loch are left grieving.
We want that to stop. We cannot afford to lose any more lives on the highway.