Dune rider’s life altered: Easter safety campaign highlights lasting legacy of trauma

LIFE CHANGED: Geelong man Billy Bubb continues to recover from traumatic injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash in sand dunes near Beachport. Picture: AMY BUBB

By Brett Kennedy

NOT even stringent safety gear use or more than a decade of experience could save Geelong motorbike enthusiast Billy Bubb from traumatic and life-altering injuries following a riding accident in sand dunes near Beachport.

The 22-year-old’s New Year’s Eve accident is sadly one of numerous incidents in recent years that have triggered a pre-Easter campaign from Limestone Coast authorities, urging residents and holidaymakers to slow down and consider their choices this long weekend.

According to Limestone Coast Police, the road safety risk for motorists increases up to threefold on the Thursday prior to Good Friday as drivers hit the road in preparation for the four-day break.

However, off-road activities remain a focus for emergency services this Easter in the hope recreational accidents, such as the one involving Mr Bubb, do not occur.

Mr Bubb spent the first 10 days of 2021 in a coma and suffered a severed spinal chord, broken back and other injuries following the crash in sand dunes north of Beachport Conservation Park on December 31 last year.

He remains in Melbourne’s Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre where he has re-learned how to speak, eat and drink, but remains without use of his legs and right arm.

Despite his significant injuries and tedious rehabilitation, Mr Bubb remains committed to returning to his home and resuming his career as an excavator.

Almost $70,000 has been raised for the Bubb family to help with Billy’s recovery – including $21,000 from a March 21 fundraiser in Geelong – with Billy’s sister Amy hopeful her brother’s experience would highlight the importance of protective equipment for motorcyclists and prevent a similar outcome in the future.

“His whole life Billy was always the one to wear his protective gear,” Ms Bubb said.

“If he wasn’t wearing his helmet or didn’t have his boots on, it (the accident) might have been a lot worse – he might not have been here,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been riding for six years or six months, accidents happen.”

Ms Bubb’s sentiments were echoed by Limestone Coast Police operations manager Inspector Campbell Hill, who said accidents could happen to the most diligent of people.

Insp Hill pointed to the 32 lives lost on South Australian roads so far in 2021, urging the region’s residents and visitors alike to take extra time to “make good choices” this Easter.

“Enough is enough,” Insp Hill said, adding one life was lost on Limestone Coast roads over the 2020 Easter period.

“We want people to be getting home safely,” he said.

“We don’t want people to be driving selfishly, we want them to be wearing seatbelts, not drink or drug driving, getting enough sleep beforehand and allowing enough time to get to their destination.”

Stating the region had a history of recreational accidents, Insp Hill urged people not to make “stupid or selfish” decisions and warned those who take significant care could still become involved in traumatic experiences.

“It is time to short-circuit that cycle of people just doing things automatically and just stop for a minute and calculate what they’re doing,” Insp Hill said.

“These can be really acute traumatic incidents but they’ve got a massive legacy,” he said.

“It impacts everybody that has any involvement in it.”

Given the focus on recreational activities and a forecast bumper period across national parks and coastal hotspots, Limestone Coast Parks and Wildlife manager Nick McIntyre said additional rangers would be deployed to ensure the public complied with rules.

“We really want to see everybody come and have a good time and go home safely and not have to call on SAPOL, or CFS or the SES or any of the agencies.. to come and deal with an incident because people haven’t been safe in our parks,” Mr McIntyre said.

The summer holiday season reported a visitation increase of 36pc across all sites, with Mr McIntyre adding most campsites were booked out ahead of this weekend.

Mr McIntyre urged visitors to national parks to take note of signage and conditions and to follow designated tracks.

“Always be aware that someone could be coming from around the corner on a sandhill or coming from another angle on the park,” he said.

South Australian Ambulance Service crews regularly face trauma in their duties, with Limestone Coast acting operations manager Daniel Forrest urging residents to maintain their safety while soaking up the region.

State Emergency Service Mount Gambier unit manager Mat Tye said the organisation’s highly-trained volunteers often faced traumatic scenes, pleading with people to act safely to limit the need for first responders to be called out.

“A lot of members do take this (trauma) back home with them,” Mr Tye said, adding support measures were in place for volunteers.

Limestone Coast Local Health Network chief executive Ngaire Buchanan said the impacts of traumatic incidents “doesn’t go away for a long time”.

“Take care of yourselves, take care of others, and just be mindful of the responders that are going to come and assist you and be mindful of the long journey it’s going to take to get back into society,” Ms Buchanan said.