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Family relives trauma of Kings Highway tragedy

The scene of the accident on the Kings Highway just east of Braidwood in March last year in which three people died. The black SUV belonged to the Bhatia family.

The scene of the accident on the Kings Highway just east of Braidwood in March last year in which three people died. The black SUV belonged to the Bhatia family. Photo: Stuart Walmsley

On the eve of the Easter weekend a Kambah family involved in a horrific Kings Highway accident a year ago has described how the tragedy continues to affect their lives.

Sudhir Bhatia, a computer engineer, his wife Sarika and daughters Apurva and Aditi were travelling on the highway to the south coast on the Canberra Day long weekend last year when it started to rain.

Just east of Braidwood Mr Bhatia noticed the car in front of him fishtailing, and a few seconds later the two cars collided.

Sudhir and Sarika Bhatia and their daughters Apurva and Aditi.

Sudhir and Sarika Bhatia and their daughters Apurva and Aditi. Photo: Supplied

In the car ahead of them, Jindabyne man Brian Burdett and daughters Sky, 10, and Kayla, 8, of Mossy Point, were killed.

Mr Bhatia blacked out for a few moments but he remembers coming to with his head against the steering wheel and hearing his daughters crying.

''It's very hard to see the kids in pain, I don't want to remember when they were crying in the back seat, and I couldn't do anything, just wait,'' he said.

Mr Bhatia saw a small girl with her face near the window in the other car, and after emergency services had arrived, he asked one of the firemen why that family were not being looked after.

''He said because we can't help them any more, and I couldn't understand. At first I didn't realise they were dead; it was a big shock to me,'' he said.

The Bhatia family had been planning to spend the weekend celebrating the Hindu festival Holi with

friends at Batemans Bay, but instead paramedics drove Mr and Mrs Bhatia to the Canberra Hospital in ambulances, while their daughters were flown there by helicopter.

Coincidently, on Wednesday the family was again celebrating Holi.

Mrs Bhatia was a contractor before the crash and subsequently she lost her job. Mr Bhatia still requires physiotherapy for his back injury and said his eldest daughter, Apurva, 14, still requires treatment on her jaw, which was hurt when the cars collided and her head smashed into the seat in front of her.

The crash also took an emotional toll on the family. For a long time the two girls were nervous about travelling for any distance in a car, so Mr Bhatia has started driving them for half an hour at a time to help them regain confidence. ''Whenever I see the news, [on the television] they often start with accidents, and that really gives me a shiver, and flashbacks to what I've been through,'' he said. ''Physically you can get healed, but mentally it's very tough.''

Mr Bhatia said they pray for the family of the father and two girls who died that day, and urged anyone travelling on the roads this long weekend to slow down.

''Five minutes early isn't worth it, you not only put your life in danger but all the other innocent people's, for no reason,'' he said.

ACT Policing and NSW Police will be on high visibility patrols on the main roads in and out of Canberra during the long weekend, when double demerit points for speeding and seatbelt offences will apply.

At least 50 per cent of casualties on the Kings Highway are speed-related, and 30 per cent of those involve ACT drivers.

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