“A TRAGEDY like this must never happen again. Now can we PLEASE get in to schools and educate youngsters......”
These are the heartfelt words of Dearne station manager Jon Torn, who faced the carnage of both teen road crashes at Mexborough and Conisbrough.
In his 25 years of service as a fire officer, Jon, 46, has never been affected more than when directing teams as incident commander at this week’s fatal road crash, and the one five weeks ago.
At Mexborough just after Christmas, he was the first on the scene, and the casualties he tried so hard to save were known to his family.
Then, in his words, his heart sank when he realised more young people were involved in Sunday’s smash.
“I’ve attended many fatalities on the roads and in fires”, he said. “But these have been the very worst. When it’s youngsters who are involved you just can’t accept it”.
Jon, who lives at Mexborough, is passionate about getting in to schools and targeting the 13 to 16 years age group, BEFORE they are of an age to get behind the wheel.
Incredibly, the Drive for Life package that the fire service begs to present in every school to every pupil, is pushed aside in favour of curriculum subjects.
But which is the most important, asks Jon.
Just 4,000 teens a year in South Yorkshire have received the Drive for Life message to date, with headteachers placing the sessions very low on their lists of priorities.
Now the South Yorkshire Times is backing Jon in a campaign to get road awareness education in to EVERY school, to every pupil in the target group, in a bid to stop more horror, more tragedy and more lives lost.
“Our tuition works,” said Jon. “We do use shock tactics and we do focus on real life incidents.
“It’s necessary. We need to re-address education needs and this should be a priority. Statistics show the majority of road accidents include drivers within the 17 to 24 age group.
“So it’s before they get to 17 that we need to get to them. I appeal to schools to make time for us and let us in. Anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car is in charge of a lethal weapon. They need to understand that”.
He continued: “As a father, my thoughts go out to the parents and families of the victims of both these recent road crashes. They are complete tragedies”.
As the first to reach the casualties at Mexborough’s Adwick Road crash that claimed three lives, Jon faced the scene alone, until he was joined by a police officer and finally the teams of rescue services.
“Workers team together and that’s what we did at Conisbrough - obeying the instructions of emergency responders”, he said. “But because of the nature of the scene and the strain on officers we have an occupational health officer talking by phone to the crews involved, just to check they are coping”.
He added: “It’s a freak chance that two horrific incidents like this should happen within five miles of each other in a short space of time. We can’t do anything about that now, but we can help to prevent any future loss of life. That’s everyone’s responsibility”.