Victoria Keep, 33, Tapping WA
Resting my head on my husband's shoulder, I smiled as he clicked through the photos on his laptop. Ian and I were sitting at the dinner table, having just returned from a weekend of camping where we'd captured as much as possible on camera.
We adored being outdoors and showing our son Blain, two, the beauty of the Australian bush. Having moved over from England four months earlier, we loved every minute of our new adventure. Although we did miss our families, as we settled into our new home, everything felt pretty much perfect.
After our family dinner, we usually cuddled up on the couch together, but tonight Blain was so exhausted from our holiday I put him straight to bed. Tucking my boy into his blanket, I read him a book before giving him a goodnight kiss on the forehead. He looked so peaceful as he slowly dozed off.
Then, flicking the light switch, I turned quietly to walk out of the room when I was startled by an ear-piercing bang. It sounded like something had exploded... in the house! All of a sudden, the sickening smell of gas started to fill the air. Had something erupted in the kitchen?
I rushed to check when something big and black whizzed past me at a horrifying speed. Smashing the sofa, it sent the television flying before crashing through the back wall of the house and landing with a thud in the backyard. Smoke clouded my vision as I tried to grasp the cause of the wreckage.
That's when I saw a stream of light penetrating the clouds of dust. Lying in the wreckage of our family home was a car with its rear lights blazing. Frozen to the spot in fear, I tried to grasp what had happened. How had a car ended up in my house? Just a few minutes earlier Ian and I had been enjoying a lovely meal together. Now, our walls looked like crushed pieces of paper. Was everything about to tumble down around us?
Overcome by shock, I didn't even realise Blain was standing right beside me. His warm touch snapped me back to reality - I had to get my family to safety. 'Stand here and don't move!' I said to him, before following the car's trail of destruction. I gasped as I saw that it had come careering through the lounge room window before ploughing into the kitchen and crashing through the family room.
The dining room where we'd just had dinner was demolished. Mangled furniture was scattered everywhere, while water spurted from what was left of the crumpled sink. As I took in the destroyed dining table and the smashed plates, cups and cutlery I realised that Ian was nowhere to be seen. A few minutes ago he'd been there, looking through our family snaps. Where was he now?
Every second that ticked by felt like a lifetime. 'Ian!' I yelled, over and over. Had he been crushed by the car? I'd seen what it had done to the sofa, what if Ian had suffered the same fate? Using my bare hands I started sifting through the debris. Then suddenly, something in the garden caught my eye. I could hear moaning. Beneath shards of glass and twisted metal, I could just make out Ian's face, overcome by pain. The force of the impact must have thrown him into the yard, where he'd been buried under the rubble.
Covered in cuts and bruises, at least he was alive! Falling to my knees, I frantically clawed to free him. Adrenaline must have been surging through me because somehow I pulled him up and carried him to the garage. It was only then that I heard a voice. It was the driver of the car. 'I'm sorry,' he cried. Incredibly he was unhurt, but there was no time to try to figure out what had happened.
I had to help Ian, who was drifting in and out of consciousness. I desperately tried asking him questions but he could barely string a sentence together. Some of our neighbours had gathered to help as I ushered Blain outside. 'Is there anyone else in the house?' one asked. Shaking my head, I realised I was too shocked and exhausted to speak. One woman wrapped Blain in a blanket and another cleaned Ian's wounds.
My legs shook and buckled beneath me as I realised how close I'd come to losing my husband and son. Just minutes later the street was filled with flashing lights. Firemen sealed off the house while an ambulance rushed us to hospital. I waited nervously as doctors gave Ian X-rays and a CT scan. Relief flooded through me as they told me they'd found no signs of brain damage or broken bones either. 'It's a miracle he survived,' one doctor told me.
Ian's face was a mess though. The cuts were so jagged they couldn't be stitched. Instead the doctor had to use medical glue to seal the wounds. I was just glad my hubby was alive. The next day I went home hoping to salvage something - anything. But as I walked through the wreckage, tears streamed down my face. The destruction was too much to bear. Filling a suitcase with clothes, I tried to block out the blood, the smoke, the lingering smell of gas.
As images of the car flashed before me, I knew I couldn't stay any longer. Our dream to start a new life had been destroyed in just seconds. We had to give a statement to the police and my sadness turned to anger when we were told the driver had been four times over the blood alcohol limit when he lost control of the car. The whole ordeal could have been avoided.
As it was, every little noise frightened me and Blain suffered terrible nightmares. But with the support of our friends and neighbours we slowly pieced our lives back together. Collecting whatever we could from the house, we stored the damaged furniture in their garages while we went looking for a new rental home. I couldn't believe it when a local company called Moving Man offered to transport all of our possessions for free.
The kindness of strangers restored my faith that everything was going to be okay. I was relieved too when the driver was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and sentenced to six months in jail. Today, it's been eight months since our dinner turned into disaster. I'm so thankful that we all survived. After all, possessions can be replaced - family can't.