British backpackers relive the terrifying moment their car lost control and flipped onto its roof in the middle of the Australian Outback with emergency services four hours away

Two British backpackers have relived the terrifying moment they lost control of their car and flipped on to the roof in the middle of the Australian Outback.

Robyn Jago, 23, and Elyse O'Donnell, both from Merseyside, went to Perth from Thailand in February 2018 to begin their 'dream trip'.

The friends spent the next year working on a farm 'in the middle of nowhere' in Broome and Hallscreek, to save up to travel the East coast.

But their trip took a horrific turn when a tyre on the car they were in burst, causing it to lose control and veer off the road on September 30.

Ms Jago said she first realised something was wrong when she smelt 'burning rubber' coming from the tyres.

Driver Ms O'Donnell tried to regain control but hit a dip at the side of the road and flipped the vehicle on to its roof, hitting a tree which smashed through the windscreen.

Australian police told Ms Jago if she had not had removed her seatbelt she would have been impaled.

Ms Jago told the ECHO: 'I woke up and I was on my hands and knees scrunched up in a ball.

'I don't remember being in the air flipping. I just remember seeing a tiny glimpse out of the window which I knew wasn't the road.

'I was trying to understand what had happened when I saw a light switch on the floor next to me and that's when I realised that it was actually the roof of the car and that we were upside down.' 

Ms Jago and ms O'Donnell were in the car with two other women, who they had met the month before, but who have asked not to be named.

Seconds before the accident, Ms Jago had unfastened her belt to change position in the tightly packed car - meaning she took the full force of the crash.

She said: 'Your senses slowly start coming back to you and I heard screaming and Elyse's voice.

'She had managed to get out of the car by this point with [one of the other women] and they were stood on the side of the road.

'When I looked to my right I saw (one of the others) covered in blood, I thought she was dead.

'She had blood all over her face and wounds where the tree had scraped her. I screamed.'

Ms Jago said: 'Elyse could hear a hissing noise coming from the car so she thought it was going to blow.

'She was shouting ''you need to get out of the car''.'

By this point, Ms Jago said she knew she had broken her back but they had no other option but to get out of the car.

She said: 'I couldn't get out of the side I was on so we had to get out of the other side but there was a branch coming through the window.

'Elyse and [one of the others] had to pull us both out in the end.'

Ms Jago suffered a bleed on the brain during the crash and was left with a broken back and a burst finger.

Ms O'Donnell broke her back and neck in five places.

One of the other two women sustained a total of 14 serious injuries, including a wound to the head, while the other was left with black eye and a torn ligament to the shoulder.

Ms Jago said: 'I never take my seatbelt off, I literally just took it off for a minute to get comfortable.

'But the police told me afterwards that if I had had my seat belt on there was a good chance I would have been impaled by the tree and would probably have been dead by now.'

After escaping from the vehicle, the girls stood 'shaking' as they tried to work out what to do next.

Ms Jago said the crash took place 'literally in the middle of nowhere' and was a three-and-a-half-hour drive away from the nearest hospital.

But thanks to a lorry driver who was going past shortly after the accident, the girls were found.

Ms Jago said: 'We were far away from the road because of where the car landed but [one of the others] heard a lorry going past so she bombed it up to the side of the road.

'She told him 'we've just been in a car crash' and he grabbed his first aid kit, he was lovely.'

'There was a mining site not too far away so he called there and said 'have you got first aiders to help in any way they can.'

Ms Jago said it took four hours for an ambulance and police to arrive at the scene of the crash.

The girls were taken to the nearest clinic, 40 minutes away, to be assessed before Ms Jago was taken with one of the other women, by air ambulance to Broome Hospital.

Ms O'Donnell and her other friend who was involved in the crash were taken to Kunnuara Hospital the next day.

Ms Jago said: 'The first person Elyse told was her mum. She panicked at first because all Elyse did was cry down the phone but then once she told her everyone's alive and she went really calm and calmed Elyse right down.

'Elyse told my sister for me because I lost my phone in the crash. It was so surreal it honestly still doesn't feel like it happened to us.'

Ms Jago spent eight days in hospital before she was discharged, while Ms O'Donnell spent nine days being treated.

Due to the severity of both of their injuries, they were fitted with neck braces and had to attend hospital appointments several times a week for three months.

Ms Jago said: 'We were both in absolute agony. After we were discharged from hospital we spent the next three months mostly indoors at our friends house.

'I had to go back to the hospital for constant checks. I was put on medication for my brain haemorrhage and memory games and brain training.

'We could walk but we spent a lot of time lying down because of the pain. We were tired all the time, we just had no energy.'

Since the accident, Ms Jago and Ms O'Donnell have made good progress with their injuries and had their back braces removed in December.

Despite being able to walk now unsupported, Ms Jago said they are both unable to return to work until at least March and suffer from a lot of pain which makes it a 'nightmare to sleep at night'.

Ms Jago said the psychological pain of the accident, has also been 'unbearable' with both Ms O'Donnell and herself regularly suffering from flashbacks and night terrors.

But due to the high cost of receiving physiotherapy for their injuries and counselling, the girls have been unable to get the help they desperately need.

Ms Jago said: 'It's taken a toll on our mental health. I've had depression and anxiety before but it's been a whole new level since the accident.

'We've had to sit indoors for three months watching our savings disappear while we recover.

'We've both struggled to sleep since. We have sleep paralysis and suffer from nightly flashbacks.'

She added: 'We're so scared of travelling in cars now. We'll be in a taxi and it'll change lanes and we both get so nervous. We're just very nervous about everything little thing.

'The doctor has told us we're not allowed to go back to work until March.'

To help the girls get the money they need for physiotherapy and counselling, a Just Giving Page has been set up by their friend Jack.

Despite initially being reluctant to ask for help Ms Jago said they have now used up nearly all of their savings on going to and from hospital appointments and from being unable to work for so long.

She said: 'We didn't want to ask anyone for help at first we just said we'll figure something out but our friend Jack set up a fund raising page to help us out.

'People have said to us why don't you come home but we're so reluctant to give up because this is the only thing I've ever wanted in my life to move to Australia.

'We worked so hard for over a year to save up to travel and we've not even been able to do that yet.

'We were going to buy a car and go on a road trip up and down East Coast it's ruined everything.'

Ms Jago added: 'Nearly all our savings have gone on getting to and from the hospital and not being able to work.

'I am starting to accept that I can't change what happened and to just be thankful each day that no one was paralysed.

'We're just taking it one step at a time but my current aim is just to be able to afford enough therapy so that I can exercise again, I'm just focusing on the little things for now.

'And regardless of how hard things are mentally, physically and financially we have some hope that we might get through it all and continue on our adventure.'

stella Posted on January 13, 2020 18:01

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