Lockhart Shire leaders and the Riverina communities have expressed their sympathies and paid tribute the teenage boy who lost his life in a crash at Yerong Creek on Thursday morning.
A Toyota HiLux utility containing three teenage boys were on a property at about 10.45am on Thursday when it rolled.
Two teenage boys were ejected from the vehicle.
One of the boys ejected, aged 14, died at the scene.
The other two teenagers, aged 13 and 14, sustained minor injuries and were taken to Wagga Base Hospital in a stable condition.
Former Lockhart Shire Mayor Peter Yates said it was “a huge loss and we’re very sadden by the whole incident”.
“We’re very distraught and the community’s just devastated,” he said.
“When I was mayor, I worked with the family because they were great contributors to the community of Yerong Creek.
“We’ve had our fair share of tragedies in Lockhart.”
We’re very distraught and the community’s just devastated.Peter Yates, former Lockhart Shire Mayor
Mr Yates, was at the council for nearly 20 years that included eight years as mayor, said the the effect on residents was more profound because of the close-knit community.
“You’ve also got to consider the other teenagers involved – our hearts go out to all the families and friends involved,” he said.
Lockhart Shire Mayor Rodger Schirmer said that the loss of the teenage boy was compounded during school holidays.
“Any loss of life is bad, but it’s even more so as school holidays come to a close,” Cr Schirmer said.
“I think any tragedy of this type has a huge impact on the community, especially smaller communities because everybody knows everybody.
“It’s a terrible tragedy that’s occurred through the most innocent of circumstances.
“They’re young boys so they would’ve be having the best times.
“When a tragedy like this happens, it’s absolutely dreadful and from that point of view, we offer our most sincere sympathies.”
Police investigations continue
As of Friday afternoon, a NSW Police spokesperson said said investigations were continuing.
Wagga Police Detective Inspector Darren Cloake said crash investigation units were taking statements.
“It’s still too early to come to any conclusion,” he said.
“I hope that in the next coming days, we can find out as much information as possible and help that small community at Yerong Creek.”
Speaking to the media on Thursday afternoon, Detective Inspector Cloake said that they would do their best to help with counselling services for those affected, including community members and emergency services personnel.
“As we’ve seen in most areas here in the rural communities, they are a tight-knit group and it doesn’t take too much for something like this to have a wider effect across the region,” Detective Inspector Cloake said.
“We will do our best to support that group.
“There’s also been police and ambulance staff who have been exposed to this, so we’ll do our best to provide counselling to those police officers and other emergency services.”
He also said that “there would be some who would question why “a 14-year-old was behind the wheel”.
However, he said that it was on private land and that the majority of children growing up on rural properties and farms were “very confident of operating machinery”.
I hope that in the next coming days, we can find out as much information as possible and help that small community at Yerong Creek.Detective Inspector Darren Cloake, Wagga Police
Echoing the same sentiments is Tony Richens, an RMS-accredited driving instructor with 30 years of experience.
“Kids learning how to drive and use other machinery learn it just as well as adults going through their licences,” Mr Richens said.
“It was just a very unfortunate situation with what happened to the young boys.
“Accidents can happen just as they do with adults on public roads.”
Mr Richens said he learnt to drive on private rural land at aged nine.
“The only way to get 100 per cent safety is to put people in one corner and the vehicles in the other corner and have them nowhere near each other,” he said.
On Friday afternoon, a spokesperson at the Murrumbidgee Local Health District said the other two teenage males involved in the crash had been discharged.
Officers from the NSW Police crash investigation unit are investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash.
Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.