A former Riverina man has told of the terrifying moment he fell asleep behind the wheel and slammed into a tree, trapping himself inside his crumpled car.
Greg McWilliam has shared his story to warn other drivers about the need to be vigilant when it comes to fatigue.
Mr McWilliam is originally from Griffith and was headed there for a funeral when the crash happened.
He had decided to leave Sydney early on Anzac Day in an effort to beat some of the road closures.
Heading to bed early the night before and having a good sleep, Mr McWilliam then got up at 5am to leave.
"I was about one hour away, at the Ardlethan turnoff at the Newell Highway, and I fell asleep," he said.
"I have come off the side of the road, and gone down about 100 metres and I have woken up and knowing I am off the road have tried to steer back onto the road.
"I have fishtailed it onto the other side of the road then come down an embankment and into a tree."
Mr McWilliam said he does not recall everything about the crash as he does not remember the airbags going off, but he does remember the car stopping.
"Some passersby stayed with me while they called for help to get me out the car," he said.
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"They didn't want to put me at risk."
Mr McWilliam has been in hospitals ever since. At first he was taken to Wagga Base, but then he was airlifted by the Royal Doctor's Flying Service to Royal North Shore in Sydney.
"I have a left wrist facture, a slight fracture on my right ankle and possible lower vertebrae fractures which has not been deemed too serious at this stage," he said.
"I may have to wear a back brace. But, that is still under examination."
Mr McWilliam said he feels lucky to be alive, adding many people have wondered how he made it after seeing the damage to his car.
"It could have been much worse," he said. "I could have been hit by another car or truck coming from the other direction. I am lucky."
Mr McWilliam said he thinks having to drive an extra hour, after discovering he could not go through Temora due to road closures, impacted his fatigue.
But, he added, it sent a strong message to himself that he wants to share with others.
"I think if you feel tired, then just pull over or find the nearest roadside picnic area to have a rest," Mr McWilliam said.
"Even if you feel rested like I did, take a break.
"I had stopped at that last McDonalds on the Hume Highway before the Burley Griffin Way for a coffee and some toasted sandwiches so it just goes to show you can't be too careful."
Mr McWilliam thanked all the people that had rendered assistance, both strangers and emergency services, as well as all the medical staff involved in his care since the crash.
"Thank you for helping to save my life," he said.
Wagga Ambulance Station Inspector Eamonn Purcell said they were called to the scene of the crash at about midday on Anzac Day after reports a car had left the road and crashed into a tree.
"When our first crew got there, we found the gentleman was trapped with what we thought were lower leg fractures and back pain," he said.
"We treated him for spinal injuries and then FRNSW worked to get him out.
"We had to carry him up the bank which was about 10 metres and he happened to have hit the biggest tree he could have when he went down there."
Inspector Purcell said the driver was extremely lucky, especially as he had a modern car that had safety features which saved him from more serious injuries
"On that job, the cooperation between the emergency services was outstanding," he said.
"As usual, they all worked extremely well together to get the man the help he needed."
Inspector Purcell said they don't often get a sense at these jobs as to whether they person they are treating fell asleep behind the wheel.
He added that sometimes paramedics put two and two together, when people reveal they have driven for a long time without any breaks.
But, Inspector Purcell urged anyone getting behind the wheel of the car to take breaks every hour.
"There is an enormous societal, community and personal cost to these things," he said.
"Because they don't happen to us every day, we don't factor it in as a risk so what paramedics come across is that people are surprised it happen to them.
"But it can happen to anyone, and it has the potential to change your life."
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