Survive the Drive: Albury daughter still coming to terms with road toll loss

On a cold, wet day seven months ago, Keith Sharp got in the cab of his truck - just like he had almost every day for 25 years. 

But on that particular day, the man with the cheeky grin and gentle presence, never made it home to Albury.

About 6am on May 29, 2017, the 63-year-old’s truck rolled on the Riverina Highway near Berrigan.

Five days later Keith was taken off life-support. 

For his daughter Kristy, those five days and every day since have been agony. 

“It was horrible, I was away from my children stuck in Melbourne, sitting over dad just hoping and praying he’d respond,” she says. 

“Dad had several fractures in his neck and back, every rib in his body was broken and he had hematomas on the front of his head.

“The artery in the left of his neck was severed clean in half so there was no blood flow.”

Keith died on June 2, just 19 days shy of his 64th birthday.

This was the last way anyone thought he would die.

Rachael Sharp

Still every day Kristy wonders what caused her careful father to lose control and crash. 

Her family is no closer to an answer and Kristy believes she probably won’t ever get one.  

“We’ve had family members pass away from cancer and that’s really hard, but you know why and you’ve got that time to spend with them to say goodbye,” she said. 

“With an incident like this you’ve got no explanation, you can’t say goodbye – it’s just going over in your head every day, why?

“We’re struggling day by day.”

The family is still waiting on a coroner’s report – health issues have been ruled out and Kristy says her father would not swerve for an animal on the road. 

Keith had a long history with vehicles and safety after joining the army at 17 as a mechanic. 

When he left the army he started driving trucks and had worked for Border Express for about 13 years. 

“I suppose the day was cold, wet and icy so that could be a factor but I just don’t think we’ll ever know the cause to be honest,” Kristy says.

“He was so safe, he’d always check his loading and check this and that.

“He always told us that if we got heavy in the eyes to pull over and have a power nap.

“It was how he was, it was built into him and I think the army had a lot to do with that.

“You can never say it won’t happen, it doesn’t matter how safe you are or how experienced you are when mother nature has its way.”

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Kristy’s sister, Rachael Sharp, never feared her father would die on the roads. 

“This was the last way anyone thought he would die,” she says.

“As a nurse I deal with trauma but it’s still hard to be on the other side, it’s not something I’d want anyone to have to deal with.”

On May 29, another number was added to NSW’s road toll.

With an incident like this you’ve got no explanation, you can’t say goodbye – it’s just going over in your head every day, why?

Kristy Sharp

But Keith is not a statistic. 

He was a gentle father and a “push-over” pop, whose face crumpled when he smiled. 

“He was a wonderful man, he could talk to anyone it didn’t matter if they were the richest person on the street or they were homeless, he’d just chat,” Kristy says. 

“He never doubted anyone or had a bad word to say about anything, he made sure to teach us kids right from wrong but that you learn from your mistakes – he always said that.”

The loving father “absolutely loved the road”.

“As kids our weekend outing was always a drive in the car to the country to look at dead trees or paddocks, that was our outing with Dad,” Kristy says.

Keith saw many near misses, risks and bad behaviour on the road.

“People who are acting dangerously need to wake up before it’s too late, but a lot of them won’t until they injure themselves or someone else,” Kristy says.

“Our family has been torn apart by Dad’s death. 

“I don’t know how we will recover and I hate the thought other families might have to go through what we are going through.”

Her father’s crash has changed the way Kristy views driving, she’s now hyper aware you can only control so much when you’re on the road. 

She says it’s very important drivers don’t get complacent just because they have driven a route thousands of times. 

“Dad always said ‘I love you bub’ and gave us all a kiss before he left,” Kristy says. 

Her family, three children, two siblings and mother aren’t alone in their grief; the impact of Keith’s death has reverberated across Albury especially in the trucking community. 

Border Express’ Alison Hutchinson says the loss of Keith is still being felt at the workplace.

“It was a big step for (the drivers) to get back into the truck,” she says.

"It really hit home how easily it can happen to anyone.”

It’s why Kristy is urging anyone who gets behind the wheel to leave their loved ones with a kiss and a hug:

“That’s the best thing you can do because it doesn’t always matter how safe you are, Dad proved that.”