Why a young mine worker's life has changed forever
AT JUST 24, Jye Blake has no idea what the future holds.
He's been fired from his job and is dealing with the repercussions of a car crash that left him with a lifelong injury.
Ten weeks ago Mr Blake was in a crash near Walkerston when his friend fell asleep at the wheel.
The trades assistant, who had no licence at the time, finished work on July 17 and his friend, who was leaving a Bowen Basin mine site the next morning, offered to drive him home.
When his friend finished work, the two went to the service station for some food, fuel and drinks and started the trip back to Mackay.
"We were talking the whole way from camp to two minutes outside of Walkerston," he said. "He'd fallen asleep behind the wheel.
"Just before we've come off the road, I've realised what was going on. I'd gone to reach for the steering wheel to pull us back onto the road but by the time my hand hit the steering wheel, it was too late.
"He woke up, realised what was happening and hit the steering wheel the other way and put us in the ditch."
Mr Blake said at 100km/h they hit a driveway in a drain culvert, propelling them into the air, flying about 10m and hitting the ground on the other side of the driveway and skidding about 100m further.
"From the impact of the car hitting the side of the driveway … and landing, is where I've got a compression fracture on my T12, on my spine. My right elbow hit the handbrake which caused soft tissue damage. He was completely fine."
Mr Blake said if they had been on the road for another 15 seconds, they could have had a head-on with a semi-trailer.
"As I climbed out the window of the car, (three semi-trailers) came past us doing 100km/h," he said.
The day after the crash, Mr Blake was fired.
Mr Blake said he would have been able to perform light duties, but that was not enough for the company.
He believes most of his role as a trade assistant could have been considered light duties.
Mr Blake said the whole situation had "stuffed him". He'd like to be a truck operator on mine sites in the future, but does not know if he will ever be able to.
Losing his job was one thing, but the injury has stopped Mr Blake from being able to do many things he loves.
"I can't ride horses, I can't ride motorbikes, I can't go fishing because I can't sit in a boat because of the waves, I don't know what it would do," he said.
"There are so many things I want to do that I can't do because I don't know what it will do to me."
Simple things like sleeping on his back, sitting on the lounge for long periods, or even driving to the Gold Coast to visit his family are not possible right now for the 24 year old, who got his licence back shortly after the crash.
"There are so many precautions I'm taking now because of this injury," he said.
"I can't even throw a ball for my dog, I can't walk my dog. I can't wash my car."
Mr Blake has been in rehab since the crash, but considers himself very lucky.
"We could have had a head-on with the car we missed, we could have had a head-on with a semi-trailer, we could have hit the driveway a little more on an angle, flipped the car," he said. "We're both alive, but I've got injuries which sucks."
Work Safety Month
SHINE Lawyers, Mackay's special council Craig Oliver said mistakes happened when people were tired.
October is National Safe Work Month, a campaign to raise awareness for work health and safety.
"The mining industry is using technology and other measures to try to address fatigue on site, but we are nonetheless seeing too many accidents on our roads at the end of a shift," Mr Oliver said.
"Long hours, time pressures, and other factors - including misplaced overconfidence in our own ability to fight tiredness - are influencing fatigue-related accidents.
"Jye's case is not the first of its kind and unfortunately won't be the last, but it does provide a stark reminder to workplaces to ensure staff members have regular breaks during and between shifts.
"Workers themselves also need to take responsibility for ensuring they've had enough rest before driving to and from work.
"October is National Safe Work Month and, given the recent track record of mining related accidents and fatalities, now is as good a time as any to consider what we can all do to make arriving home safely after a solid day's work more likely."