Posted on 24 Oct 2018
Just 19 days after the Tutakne family arrived in Australia, their world was turned upside by a split-second driving error at a busy Brighton East intersection.
On August 9, 2016, Girish and Devika Tutakne decided to walk down to the local supermarket to pick up some bread to make sandwiches for their two teenage sons. They were using this as an opportunity to familiarise themselves with their new neighbourhood, after arriving three weeks earlier from the Philippines.
The couple, who were crossing North Rd at Hawthorn Rd – on a green pedestrian signal – were suddenly hit by a car, with Mr Tutakne killed and Mrs Tutakne spending the next four and half months in hospital recovering from multiple significant injuries, which still impact her today.
The devastation of the incident haunts the 44-year-old who was three months away from celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary. Together with her two sons – one in university and one studying year 12 – they regularly think about how in a few seconds that day the course of their lives changed forever.
“Unfortunately, I have no memory of the accident or the time leading up to it,” Mrs Tutakne said. “But the impact it has had on our lives has been devastating.”
“I don’t believe the driver of the car intended to do anything wrong, but it has left a gap in all our lives and we can’t bring him back.”
Slater and Gordon has helped Mrs Tutakne access the medical treatment she needs and also get the supports she needs for her family.
Senior Slater and Gordon Lawyer, Jane McCullough, said due to the significant injuries Mrs Tutakne sustained, it was important the firm did everything it could to get her the support and benefits she needs.
“This is one of the most tragic cases I’ve been involved in because if they were five seconds earlier or five seconds later, the result could have been completely different,” Ms McCullough said. “The impact that this has had on the family is huge and so sad. Instead of starting a new, exciting life in Melbourne, they have been faced with this terrible tragedy, far away from family and friends.
“Motorists should be especially wary of pedestrians who are extremely vulnerable when crossing roads. When a car collides with a pedestrian it will always be the pedestrian who comes out of it worse.”
While Mrs Tutakne’s memories of the incident are foggy, the pain and suffering she endures now is not. Her injuries include a severe skull fracture and fractures to her pelvis. She also has suffered ongoing depression and anxiety, prompted by both the horror of the incident and the loss of her husband.
Mrs Tutakne still suffers numbness and pain in her right hip, down her right leg and her right knee. She cannot walk long distances and has ongoing back and neck pain.
“We had been in our new home just two days, no one could have expected this to happen, but it has,” Mrs Tutakne said. “It’s also the things you don’t think about that contribute to my daily difficulty – I can’t drive a car, so it’s really difficult for me to do things like buy groceries.”
The couple met and settled in New Delhi, India marrying in 1996 before travelling around the world following Mr Tutakne’s career as a project manager and business consultant.
Prior to arriving in Australia, the family had lived in the Philippines but they were excited and eager to move to Melbourne from what they had seen and heard through friends and colleagues.
Mrs Tatakne said she wanted other drivers to be wary of road safety, emphasising the fact that it does not take much to changes a family’s destiny.
“People really do need to understand the consequences of what they do behind the wheel and what it can do to others,” Mrs Tutakne said.
“I do really love this country and I don’t regret coming here. It’s just a shame Girish isn’t here to enjoy it with us because I know he would have loved it.”