An Albury Thunder footballer and his best mate share their gripping story - in the hope it will change some of the region's drink drivers.By Meg Pigram
An Albury footballer who left his mate in a wheelchair after a car accident five years ago uses his experience to change the attitude of other young drivers and highlight the dangers of drink driving.
Mark Walsham, who teamed up with Victoria Police as part of their Cool Heads project, has spoken to young people this side of the border about his experience in jail as a result of a car accident.
It was just over five years ago when Mark and his best mate Theo Jooz were having a few quiet drinks at Mark’s Albury home when they decided it was a good time to go fishing.
For Mark, who had been caught drink driving before and ‘‘always got away with it’’, it seemed nothing new to be drink driving.
Fast forward a few hours and Mark was forced to swerve to avoid wiping out a kangaroo but in doing so he rolled his car four times. He was lucky to escape serious injury with only a few cuts and bruises, however his best mate Theo wasn’t quite so lucky.
‘‘It was a real eerie feeling,’’ Mark told the Border Mail.
‘‘I knew he wouldn’t have left me.
‘‘I just didn’t know what was going on but I knew I would find Theo wherever he was.’’
He discovered Theo lying face down in a paddock, 5
Theo suffered multiple fractures and damage to his spinal cord which has left him wheelchair bound for the rest of his life.
While many friendships wouldn’t survive such a horrific ordeal, that of Mark and Theo did and they now talk to other young people about the impacts of road trauma.
Mark was charged with aggravated dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm and sentenced to 10 months in prison which he says ‘‘made him grow up’’.
According to Mark life inside a cell was far from ideal — being fed the same food for five days.
‘‘It was hell, I wouldn’t let my dog stay there,’’ he said.
There are still a host of young drivers on our roads drink driving — and that doesn’t sit easy with Mark or Theo.
‘‘They saw what I went through and my family and Theo, but there is only so much you can say,’’ he said.
Mark and Theo have since used their experience in partnership with Victoria Police and the Cool Heads program which aims to change driver behaviour.
In recent times Mark and Theo shared their story with schools at Wodonga and further into Victoria as well as the television show Today Tonight.
Mark and Theo were expected to speak at Rutherglen Cool Heads last month but had prior commitments.
They welcome invitations to speak at different schools and share their story.
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