Horrific crash on the Great Ocean Road turns couple’s lives upside down

A WOMAN who lost her leg in a horrific crash on the Great Ocean Road wants more stringent testing for overseas drivers introduced.

Liz Harris, 50, and Dan Imbess, 30, were on a motorbike near Port Campbell on February 3 when they were struck by a mini-bus.

Ms Harris lost her right leg and has has undergone 15 operations, while Mr Imbess lost his right arm and broke both ankles.

The two remain in hospital and have been told they will likely remain there until Christmas.

Ms Harris said their lives had been turned upside down.

“The life your saw for yourself is gone in the blink of an eye,” she said.

Ms Harris said the two were preparing for a weekend away.

“It was a beautiful sunny day – perfect for riding,” she said.

“We were with a great group of friends on our way to Warrnambool to spend the night. We stopped at Lorne for lunch and we were all laughing and having fun."

Ms Harris was Mr Imbess’ pillion passenger when their motorcyclist was hit by a tourist min-bus.

Police said the mini-bus driver was one metre over the centre line when he struck the motorcyle about 5pm three kilometres east of Port Campbell.

Ms Harris doesn’t remember the accident, only waking up in hospital to discover she had lost a leg.

She remains in a lot of pain and will have to learn to walk again with a prosthetic leg.

“It’s a daily struggle,” Ms Harris said.

“You go to bed and dream you have two legs and you wake up and you don’t.”

Her right hand is also badly damaged and she is unable to complete simple tasks such as tie her hair up in a ponytail.

Mr Imbess also remains in a wheelchair due to his severely broken ankles and is also struggling with every day tasks with only one arm.

The couple is devastated their life-long passion for motorbike riding is now a thing of the past.

In fact she never wants to return to the scene of the accident.

“I’m never going down the Great Ocean Road again,” Ms Harris said.

She said she didn’t want anyone else to go through what she had and called for tougher testing of overseas drivers.

“If you can’t speak English you shouldn’t be given a licence to drive on our roads,” she said.

Ms Harris said she wanted to thank the people who helped the couple after the accident.

“There was a female in the car without us and without her we probably wouldn’t have survived,” she said.

MP calls for action

Member for Western Victoria James Purcell said his thoughts were with the victims.

“It’s appalling that they’re now going to suffer for the rest of their lives for what has happened,” Mr Purcell said.

“It’s an issue that I’ve raised many times.”

Mr Purcell said he believed overseas drivers should be forced to answer a series of questions regarding Australian road rules.

“Too often they don’t know our road rules – they don’t know which side of the road to drive on and they’re let loose on our roads,” he said.

“It’s not good enough.”

Mr Purcell said he feared accidents on the Great Ocean Road would become a daily event as the amount of traffic increased.

‘We should discourage overseas drivers from getting behind the wheel’

A former policeman has spoken to a large number of overseas drivers who regretted driving in Australia.

Corangamite Shire councillor Simon Illingworth said the difference in road rules, conditions and cars presented challenges to many visitors.

“Chinese tourists often say to me ‘we had no idea how difficult it would be to drive in Australia’.,” Cr Illingworth said.

He believes hire car companies should encourage overseas drivers to use the services of a chauffeur, particularly while travelling on the Great Ocean Road.

“We need to discourage them from driving themselves,” Cr Illingworth said.

He said some tourism operators in other countries were setting unrealistic travel schedules for visitors.

“They’re arriving in Melbourne where they have a car booked after a nine or 10 hour flight and then driving straight to the Apostles,” Mr Illingworth said.

He said there was also a suggestion by some people that you needed to drive along the Great Ocean Road to experience its beauty.

“Just like Route 66, people assume you have to drive it to enjoy it,” Mr Illingworth said.

“While there is a degree of truth in that, it doesn’t mean you have to be behind the wheel.”

Mr Illingworth said funds also needed to be invested in updating turnoffs to a number of lookouts on the Great Ocean Road.

“Lock Ard Gorge is a classic example,” he said.

“There is car accident upon car accident at that particular lookout.”