Chevy’s life-long bond with Warwick saviour
WHEN little Chevon Parker was just five years old she faced adversity with the strength and courage of a warrior.
She tenderly wiped blood from her daddy's hands, gave him a drink and used what strength her little body could muster to try to free him from the crumpled truck that had pinned him.
After 10 minutes, Dave Parker realised his rig was going up in flames and there was no way out for him.
But he wouldn't let the blaze take his daughter, too.
Dave looked at the little girl he was ecstatic to have after four sons and told her he was about to die.
She was told to get out through the broken window and to get help so she could get home because her mother needed her.
Before she left, Dave gave Chevon the most important message of all - he told her he loved her.
With steely determination, Chevon followed her daddy's instructions and escaped the burning truck.
Fatefully, Warwick man Paul Maher was travelling the same stretch of the Cunningham Hwy near Karara when he spotted smoke billowing from the site.
He swept a burned and bleeding Chevon up into his arms and at that moment he had not only saved her but made a friend for life.
Shy, but not overwhelmed by the dramatic scenes, Chevon said just five things to her saviour.
She told him her daddy was still in the truck, they had "done a tyre", asked where he was taking her, said she didn't know where she was, and asked for her mummy.
Unfortunately the other man responsible for saving her life, her father, didn't make it.
Others on the scene, including fellow Warwick man Bruce Gillespie, bundled the pre-schooler in a coat and cared for her until ambulance officers arrived.
Other than 20 stitches to repair cuts to her head from the broken window and minor burns to her feet, Chevon was unhurt.
Six years later, now an outgoing 11-year-old, Chevon last month returned to Warwick from her home in Albury with her mother, Amanda and three of her siblings.
And it was all about visiting Paul and wife, Monica.
United by an experience nobody else could understand, Paul and his mate "Chevy" have been close ever since the crash.
Paul felt compelled to attend Dave's funeral and hoped to help his loved ones find some closure about that fateful day.
"I wanted to meet the family and realised they would, in time, want to come and speak to me about what went on," he said. "I thought I would talk to them and could hopefully give them some answers about what they wanted to know."
The close bond has allowed Paul and Monica to watch the family grow stronger.
"(The crash) is in the back of your mind all the time so it has been good to have contact with Mandy and Chevy and all the kids," he said.
"Mandy has done a tremendous job with the all the kids. She is a really strong woman," he said.
Paul shuns the "hero" tag and says he was just doing what had to be done.
"I wouldn't say I saved (Chevon's) life - I just got her out of a place that could have got nasty," he said.
"You tread on thin ice sometimes and it was an unknown. You just do what you have to do."
Amanda said the silver lining from her husband's death was the relationship they had developed with the Mahers.
When she gets an award at school or she welcomes a new cousin to the world, Chevon can't wait to get on the phone to tell Paul and Monica all about it.
"We have always kept in contact and we have seen them about four times since then, which is nowhere near enough if you ask Chevon," Amanda said.
"But they talk just about every week - Chevon will call them or they will call her.
"She has really bonded with Paul and I think it is because he is the only other person who really knows what it was like that day.
"And she just loves Monica - she is just absolutely beautiful. If anything good came out of Dave dying it is that we got to meet them. We would never have otherwise."
While it would have been easy for her to succumb to the devastating heartbreak of losing her husband in such a tragedy, Amanda - then a mother of four - said she had to push through her own grief for her children.
"You have to get up. You can't say 'I'm not doing this anymore' because they're relying on me," she said.
"And because Chevon had been there it gave me a focus and I had to get her through all of that. Dave sent her back to me for a reason and I wasn't going to curl up in a ball and die - even though I wanted to. He wouldn't have liked that."