Crash investigator pleads for end to growing road toll
TRY as he might, certain faces will forever lurk like spectres in the back of Senior Constable Alvyn Servin's memory.
Seated in a bare interview room at the Toowoomba Police station, he yesterday spoke candidly of his experiences as a forensic crash investigator.
Accepting the interview was a difficult decision to make.
Only the hope that telling his story might save a life and prevent another family from being torn apart by avoidable road crashes finally settled it.
Since 2010, Sen Const Servin has investigated 24 deaths on the region's roads - the highest number for any officer in the state.
It has been an uninvited record, but speaks volumes about his commitment to the job.
"I was worried about doing this interview," he said.
"It's very hard to convey the seriousness, the horror, the sadness and the unanswered questions.
"Bringing up those memories it is not a nice thing."
Sen Const Servin joined the police force 24 years ago and completed training to become a forensic crash investigator in 1996.
The past year has been one of the toughest he has faced.
Already, 27 people have died on Darling Downs roads.
"People ask me why anyone would want to do this job," he said.
"The truth is that I don't know, except that somebody has to do it."
His message is simple: a fatal crash can happen to anyone.
Only a moment's distraction can transform a vehicle into a two-tonne weapon hurtling directly into oncoming traffic.
By Sen Const Servin's reckoning, it can be better to be on the receiving end of a fatal crash than to face life as a survivor.
"The thing is, I guess, that people don't go for a drive planning to kill someone," he said.
"Unfortunately, a lot of it comes down to the inattention of drivers.
"They are not paying attention and, when something happens, they overreact and the car ends up on the wrong side of the road.
"I'm not out there dealing with hardened criminals.
"I deal with Mr and Mrs Average, everyday people who make one mistake and cause someone to die."
An ability to compartmentalise the mind and push back memories which will only cause heartache is a requirement of the job.
At the same time, being able to show empathy as grieving husbands and wives identify their loved-ones' bodies is also vital.
Juggling the two mindsets can be like walking a tightrope.
"The worst part of my job is dealing with the families of victims," Sen Const Servin said.
"That's when you see the full grief spectrum.
"At first, they are shocked and overwhelmed, then they are angry and they hate the person at fault.
"Something else happens as the court process draws on.
"The family hangs onto the court as some way of getting closure.
"Even if someone is sent to jail, it doesn't change the fact that a loved one has died.
"It's the children's faces that stay with you."
Sen Const Servin said being physically on the scene of a fatal crash became easier with experience.
The hard work began back at the station.
The August 30 death of motorcyclist Lyle Arthur Pott, killed in a collision with a truck on the corner of Bridge and Mary Sts, was one such occasion.
Mr Pott left a widow and three children.
"He had a young family," Sen Const Servin said.
"You don't know any of that when you're out there working at the scene.
"It's not until you start piecing together someone's life that you realise how many people have been affected."