INVESTIGATING: Accident Investigation police take measurements on the Oakey Creek Bridge near Boonah.
INVESTIGATING: Accident Investigation police take measurements on the Oakey Creek Bridge near Boonah. Rob Williams

Meet the two men who pick up the pieces

DARRYL and Craig are two of the nicest blokes you could hope to meet but chances are that if you do, it is the worst day of your life and maybe the last.

Darryl Morrison and Craig Bellchambers are the two-man team of the Ipswich police district Forensic Crash Unit.

Sergeant Morrison and Senior Constable Bellchambers are responsible for investigating all serious crashes in the Ipswich police district, particularly car crashes. Always if someone dies.

It is their job to follow each case from meticulously examining the scene to interviewing witnesses right through to giving evidence in court.

With Ipswich's perfect storm of three highways, a multitude of back roads and other accidents waiting to happen, they are always in demand.

"We're a busy little unit here. On a jobs per person basis, we do more than most crash units in south-east Queensland," Sgt Morrison said.

With only two in the Ipswich FCU, both are on call 50 per cent of the time and when one is on leave the other is always on call.

In each of the last three years Darryl and Craig have averaged about 60 incidents - not all fatalities but all with serious injuries.

"We don't just investigate car crashes, it's also plane, train, electrical, industrial, incidents on Somerset Dam," Sgt Morrison said.

"We also do crime scene, murder scene plans for the CIB and the JAB. They're obviously time-consuming pieces of work too but we struggle through.

"There's probably a few jobs that stand out more than others but like Craig says you try to do your best for each and every job.

"I did the job where the five parachutists got killed out at Willowbank. That was an interesting job because of the number of people involved and also working with another agency, the ATSB (Australian Transport Safety Bureau) and you're dealing with five sets of next of kin en masse.

"But probably the jobs that sort of get me are the single-vehicle crash out on a lonely back road, because it's so far out the media don't get to it and the person dies a very lonely unrecognised death.

"We still put the same amount of work into it because a person has died."

While most people say what if, they deal with what did occur. The whole purpose of the job is to determine why it occurred and to prevent it from happening again.

Sgt Morrison has been in the Queensland police service for about 28 years, doing general duties for about the first 14 years before moving into crash investigation.

"My niece was killed in a traffic crash in 1997 and I saw what it did to her parents and family - even to this day they're still devastated by it," he said.

"Seeing that was motivation to make sure I do the job right.

"Someone mentioned the AIS as it was called then, the Accident Investigation Squad, and I just went click, that's what I want to do and I haven't regretted it since. The learning curve is huge but I think I've really found my place in the QPS." It is a task that has to be approached with a focused commitment.

"You get to the scene and there's people upset and there's death and destruction, debris scattered over a large scale but we've got to approach it objectively and reduce it down to the physical evidence that's there.

"We realise that whatever we do in that three, four, six, 10 hours at the scene we'll be telling a court in two years. Whether it's prosecuting someone or giving evidence to an inquest, the ramifications of what we do is huge."

Senior Constable Bellchambers has been a police officer for 21 years and has done crash investigation in Queensland since 1998.

"I've apologised to people before because they think you're being rude or grumpy but you're just concentrating," he said.

"People go, 'What are you looking at way up there?' Because back there is where they're concentrating on.

"I think anyone has a family member who is killed, they expect us to do all we can then and there for their loved one.

"Because we're so busy and have so much to do, it's relatively easy to stay disconnected.

"But occasionally, and I know there's been studies on it, but a couple of years ago I went to one on the Cunningham Hwy and the girl was the same age as my daughter and blonde like my daughter and, yeah, she was deceased and that hit me, you know, and I had to take a five-minute time out.

"That's not the norm; it just happened. Normally, because everyone is relying on you, it's like a surgeon - you have clinical detachment. And you are so intent on making sure you do everything you possibly can, that's where it stays."

Sgt Morrison said the golden rule was never make assumptions, rather examine all evidence.

"If we happen to go to one where the police have got there really quickly and closed the scene off that's fantastic because what you see is what you get," he said.

"Sometimes it's not tyre marks. Sometimes the lack of evidence is evidence in itself. And there's different sorts of tyre marks; there's tyre marks from breaking, from acceleration, from a vehicle in a yaw situation where it goes around the corner too fast and the back slides out. There's a whole range of evidence, even the road itself. We've had sections of road resurfaced because of our investigation."