Survivor relives horror crash

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Darren Clark was left with a broken foot and ankle and injuries to his tailbone, knee and shoulder after a head on car crash in March.
Camera IconDarren Clark was left with a broken foot and ankle and injuries to his tailbone, knee and shoulder after a head on car crash in March. Credit: Darren Clark

It was a “good day for driving” on Saturday, March 16, when Darren Clark cruised along Indian Ocean Drive in his van, on his way to a windsurfing event in Green Head.

Mr Clark, a windsurfer for 15 years and a regular visitor to Geraldton, was no stranger to the twisting scenic road that has claimed several lives in the past few years.

Around 9am, the 52-year-old was driving through Nambung — about 10km south of Cervantes — when a blue Honda Jazz crossed to the wrong side of the road and hurtled towards him.

Behind the wheel was Roberto Santos Cadorna, 47, who told police he fell asleep while driving.

“It happened so quickly, there was just enough time for me to think ‘I’m going to die’,” Mr Clark said.

“There was a flash — it was nothing religious, it was the airbags — and my car came to a stop.

“I patted myself down, went ‘I’m not too bad’ and ... walked out of my car.”

After briefly surveying the damage, Mr Clark, who lives in Perth, lay down on the side of the road as two passers-by — a nurse from Geraldton and a Canadian backpacker “who was a gun paramedic” — rushed over to help.

The two men were airlifted to Royal Perth Hospital for medical attention.

The crash broke Mr Clark’s right foot and left ankle, badly bruised his tailbone and injured his right knee and left shoulder.

But he said he was lucky to be alive.

“The only way I’m still talking to you is he was driving a small car,” Mr Clark said.

“In most vans you’re more or less driving on the front wheel and I’m lucky my van is newer and did have airbags.”

Cadorna appeared in Geraldton Magistrate’s Court last Thursday where he pleaded guilty to careless driving causing bodily harm.

Defence counsel Faye Sellers said her client, a father of two, was sorry.

“He’s expressed a lot of remorse for what happened,” she said.

“He’s very sorry that (Mr Clark) was hurt so badly.

“It’s an awful accident that’s occurred.”

The court heard Cadorna did not sleep well the night before the accident, but took a break on the side of the road before continuing his drive.

Cadorna, who works at a locally owned auto repair business, was fined $2000 and had his licence disqualified for three months.

Magistrate Chris Miocevich said Cadorna was lucky no one died.

“This needs to be a deterrent to the community who think they can drive tired,” Mr Miocevich said.

“Given your lack of record, you’re working and your early plea I’ll reduce the sentence, but I’ll still impose a fairly significant fine.”

More than three months have passed since the crash, but Mr Clark’s injuries have not healed.

When told of Cadorna’s sentence, Mr Clark said it was “pathetic”.

“I would take the $2000 fine and three months of not driving over what I’ve got,” he said.

“I run my own painting business and I’m turning clients away. It’s just me and one other guy but I’ve had to let him go.

“Once I do get back on track I don’t know if things will ever be the way they were.”

But most of all, Mr Clark said he was desperate to get back out in the ocean.

“If I can’t do that (windsurfing), that’s going to kill me more than anything,” he said.

“It’s a very addictive sport ... and the windsurfing community as a whole is awesome.

“I’m really grateful for the windsurfing community and to the first responders.

“And that’s what gets you over it in the end, that there’s some pretty good dudes out there.”

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