The death of Jessica Falkholt goes to the fears hidden deep inside all Australians
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The death of Jessica Falkholt goes to the fears hidden deep inside all Australians

The death of Jessica Falkholt goes to the fears hidden deep inside many who drive the fatal roads of NSW.

Most weeks, eight people in NSW - friends, neighbours, family members and workmates - start a motor journey they never finish.

They know their roads are the nation's biggest killers. Yet come Christmas - with an unspoken hope or perhaps a prayer it will not happen to them - they drive to their families or to begin holidays.

Death did not take the holiday.

Jessica Falkholt died in hospital six days after her life support was turned off.

Jessica Falkholt died in hospital six days after her life support was turned off.

Photo: Supplied
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On Boxing Day a fiery head-on crash near the Bendalong turnoff on the Princes Highway on the NSW South Coast claimed three lives instantly.

Passers-by pulled two young women from the inferno of their parents' car and the severely burned sisters were evacuated to separate hospitals in Sydney where they were to lose their fights for life.

NSW was already reeling from a particularly deadly Christmas holiday road toll: 20 had died in just 11 days. By the end of the Christmas-new year period, 29 people were dead. The carnage had continued in the new year, with 24 killed on NSW roads in the first 17 days - up from 13 this time last year.

Two days after the South Coast smash, the media realised one of the survivors was an actress with credits on Home and Away.

Lars Falkholt, his wife Vivian, and their daughters Annabelle and Jessica.

Lars Falkholt, his wife Vivian, and their daughters Annabelle and Jessica.

Photo: Facebook

Jessica Falkholt's celebrity immediately ensured she would become the face of the 2017/18 holiday road toll.

She remained emblematic for all who died or were injured in the season of good cheer until 22 days after the accident she too died at St George Hospital at 10.20am on Wednesday, six days after her life support was switched off.

Falkholt family photos, from the order of service for the funeral of Lars, Vivian and Annabelle Falkholt.

Falkholt family photos, from the order of service for the funeral of Lars, Vivian and Annabelle Falkholt.

Photo: Ryan Stuart

Not only had the 29-year-old actress lost her parents Lars Falkholt, 69, and Vivian Falkholt, 60 - they were trapped in the family sedan as it exploded in flames - but her younger sister, Annabelle, 21, was to die in Liverpool Hospital four days after the smash as Ms Falkholt remained on life support at St George's Hospital.

Then as Ms Falkholt lay helpless in hospital, the poignancy and waste of hope, youth and beauty, was underscored by the media as it rounded on the driver of the other car.

Craig Whitall, 51, was alleged to have been driving home from a methadone clinic when his Toyota swerved across the Princes Highway into the Falkholt's Mazda sedan as the family drove home to Ryde after spending Christmas with relatives on the South Coast.

Whitall, who had a history of drug use, had been previously jailed for driving while disqualified .

Fifteen days after the crash, hundreds of mourners gathered at St Mary's Catholic Church in Concord for the funeral of Mr and Mrs Falkholt and their daughter Annabelle.

Meanwhile Ms Falkholt remained in a coma on life support at St George Hospital but that night, January 11, word leaked that she had been taken off it.

Some media assumed the story was over, prompting St George Hospital to issue a press statement the following day: "On behalf of the family of Jessica Falkholt, St George Hospital has been asked to advise the media and the community that Jessica's life support has been switched off. She remains in a critical condition."

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In an effort to dampen the frenzy, the hospital also told the media, "please note that the hospital will only be providing updates on Jessica's condition via email at 5.30am, 4.30pm and midday each day. The hospital will not provide any further updates outside of these hours".

Ms Falkholt finished a bachelor of arts at the University of New South Wales where she developed a taste for acting in student productions. She went on to play Hope Morrison on the long-running soap Home and Away for 16 episodes in 2016 and her latest film Harmony, will be released posthumously.

Damien Murphy

Damien Murphy is a senior writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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