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The Star: March 16, 2017

4 Thursday

4 Thursday March 16 2017 Latest Christchurch news at www. .kiwi The Star News The day life changed for little Ava On March 25, 2009, a head-on crash left toddler Ava Hurst crippled – but also had a profound impact on others that day. It inspired her uncle Shane Thomson, who was one of the first at the scene of the crash, to redevelop a driver education programme which will reach 21,000 Christchurch teens this month. Gabrielle Stuart reports AVA HURST, 11, has spent much of her young life in a hospital bed – and the rest of it in a wheelchair. Ten years ago, Ava was almost killed when the car she and her family were heading home in was hit head-on by a teen driver in a truck. The family had been heading home to Waikuku, after a trip to the supermarket. Ben Farquhar, 19, was heading the other way. The sun was in his eyes, and he was chatting to his girlfriend in the car beside him. He told police he hadn’t even seen the other car before he hit it. Ava’s father, Adrian Hurst, saw him coming and swerved, but could not avoid the collision. Ava’s mother, Nikki Thomson, remembered the moment the car came to a standstill. She was left blind without her glasses, trapped in the crushed car, and struggling to breathe with a punctured lung. “It was so quiet, afterward. But it stunk of fuel, like the car was going to blow.” The groceries they had just brought had been in the back seat, and the milk had burst and coated all the windows in a film of white. Mr Hurst had been wearing his seat belt, but the force of the crash still threw him against the BATTLER: Now 11, Ava Hurst, pictured with her mother, Nikki Thomson, still regularly needs surgery. PHOTO: GEOFF SLOAN windscreen, and bits of his hair were stuck in the cracks. When he turned to look at his baby daughter, she looked peaceful, like she was asleep. It took him a moment to realise she had stopped breathing. Mr Hurst had been training as a volunteer paramedic, so he knew what to do, pulling his daughter from the car and giving her CPR. He said those minutes before the police and fire service arrived were a blur. At one point, the other driver, Farquhar, tried to speak to him. “I remember him coming over and I was resuscitating Ava at the time, and I think he said something, like ‘is she going to be all right?’I just looked at him,” Mr Hurst said. The family spent the next 12 weeks in hospital – first in Christchurch, then at Starship, where they learned the extent of Ava’s injuries. Part of her spinal cord near her neck had been, in layman’s terms, stretched, leaving her partially paralysed. She had brain injuries, a fractured collarbone, and injuries to her lungs which meant they had to be regularly drained of fluid. She was incredibly lucky to be alive. But because the doctors had never seen a child recover from injuries like hers, they could not say what might happen – how much Ava might recover, if she would walk again, or what her brain injuries might mean. “I think the crash was the easiest part of the whole experience: It was over so quickly,” Mrs Thomson said. The hardest part came after they returned home from the hospital, as they began to realise their lives and the life of their daughter could never be what it had been. Then came the court case, where Farquhar was convicted of careless driving causing injury, disqualified from driving for nine months, fined $750 and ordered to pay $4474 in reparation to Ava’s family. She said she had not heard from Farquhar since the court case. “I go through phases where I’d like to run him over, and RECOVERY: Ava in hospital with her mother and father. give him a taste of what we go through. I know that sounds terrible, it really does, but sometimes you get so angry because this is our life and we could have had a normal life,” she said. “Ava is okay, she’s not in danger, so there are people worse off than us. But he’s probably got a family, living a normal life, and for him it’s a past memory.” When contacted by The Star, Farquhar said he had been blinded by the sun, and made a terrible mistake. “I am very, very sorry to Ava and her family. I still think about it often,” he said. Today, Ava is a very lively and happy 11-year-old. She enjoys horseriding, swimming, make-up and Minecraft, and has plenty of friends. But she is also keenly aware of what she is missing out on. She’d like to be able to have sleepovers with her friends, but usually can’t because she needs such a lot of equipment and care. She has already had 12 surgeries, and will need more as she grows – and each means time off school and months of recovery. She is able to walk short distances slowly and painfully, with the aid of a walker, but spends most of her time in her motorised wheelchair. She has one message for teen drivers. “Don’t go on your phone. Stop talking to your girlfriend and concentrate, because that’s what happened to me.” Lady Wigram Retirement Village Stage 2 Now Selling New Villas Available For Occupation Now • Large living with modern kitchen and internal access garage • Two double bedrooms • Situated close to the Landing Shopping Centre • Open home open daily from 11am to 2pm Monday to Friday Contact us for villa inspection or to visit 121 Skyhawk Road, Wigram. Sarah Jacobson - Village Manager Phone 027 3411 464 www.ladywigram.co.nz

The Star Latest Christchurch news at www. .kiwi Thursday March 16 2017 5 Programme personal • By Gabrielle Stuart THIS MONTH, Constable Shane Thomson will get up on stage to speak about safer driving to 21,000 Christchurch teenagers across 34 schools through the Crash Bash programme – something a long way out of his comfort zone. But he is driven by something deeply personal. He was working as a volunteer firefighter 10 years ago, when he was called to a crash. He had no idea it was his sister’s family involved – until he saw it was Ava on the ground. After 12 years as a firefighter he had seen some horrible crashes – but nothing prepared him for the moment he came across his own niece lying on the side of the road, struggling to breathe. He helped desperately to resuscitate Ava, rescue his sister who was trapped in the car, and load the family into a rescue helicopter. He later read the crash report when the teen driver, 19-year-old Benjamin Farquhar, went to court. “He wasn’t driving to the conditions. He had sun in his eyes but he carried on at a normal road speed. If he had slowed down to a point where he could see where he was going, it would have never happened,” Constable Thomson said. THe crash was a catalyst, he said. It inspired him to join the police, to try to prevent crashes from happening. It later inspired him to join the team redeveloping Crash Bash, which aims to teach teens to drive safely. THe annual programme is funded by the city BUDDIES: Constable Shane Thomson was inspired by his niece, Ava, to become a police officer. council and NZTA, and will tour a record number of Canterbury schools this year. Until this year, Constable Thomson said it took a confronting approach, focusing on issues like drink driving by showing the tragic details of crashes involving teenagers. But it had not been as effective as they hoped. THis year, they have redesigned it to focus on everyday issues – like cornering, following distances and distractions while driving. To do that, they involved Christchurch teenagers in challenges, some prefilmed and some done live onstage. To illustrate the need for a safe, three second following distance, they filmed student drivers asked to follow another car at what they believed was a safe driving distance – and then recorded how far ahead the students skidded when the other car slammed on the brakes. THe programme was then presented live by actors Bianca Seinafo and Josh Johnson from the Court Theatre. Burnside High School student Nargas Ahmadi, 17, said she believed the message, particularly about distractions, was something she and her friends needed to hear. She has had her learners licence for about six months but said as a teenager it was easy to slip up. “We need to be told again and again and again,” she said. THe focus of the programme was chosen after examining Canterbury crash statistics. Between 2012 and 2015, there were about 150 serious crashes in Christchurch which left people injured, and where teen drivers aged between 15 and 19 were partly or fully at fault. Poor observation was listed as the reason for the crash for about 40 per cent of those crashes. Constable Thomson’s goal was simply to prevent the kind of tragedy his family had to face, he said. “Every ticket I issue, I look at it as potentially preventing an accident or saving a life,” he said. WEKA PASS RAILWAY 04441962x Shiplap Fence Paling 130 x 19mm x 1.8m. 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