Four years ago and 39 weeks pregnant, Stefanie Teixeira survived a horror truck crash that claimed her partner’s life. Today, she’s honouring his memory the best way she knows how.
Stefanie Teixeira is a true inspiration in every sense of the word. Just months after the crash that changed her life, the mother of four made the bold decision to get straight back into the truck cabin, this time as a driver, gaining her truck licence just four months later. But the scars of that horrific day on April 6, 2017 run deep, not only psychologically, but also physically. She sustained injuries that have left her in constant pain and has required various surgeries, with more on the cards in the future.
Teixeira and her fiancé Kevin Porker were expecting their first child together. The couple had a 6,000-acre farm in Karoonda, SA and Porker had been working the grape harvest near Geelong, Victoria. With the baby due to arrive any day, Teixeira would travel with Porker so she could be close to him. After all, she didn’t want him to miss the birth. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.
Porker was an experienced truckie who absolutely loved his trucks. “He was a generational farmer so he’d been driving trucks since he was a kid. He bought his own truck in 1994. In 2013, he started doing the grape harvest in Victoria, and he did that every year. He had built his business up to four trucks. Being a farm boy all his life, he said he got the bug. He loved being in the truck. He had started to do other contracts for grain carting as well and was really starting to grow business wise,” said Teixeira.
On that tragic night, the couple were heading to a winery near Geelong with a 60 tonne B-double fully loaded with grapes. They were just 10 minutes from their destination when the unthinkable happened. The truck jack-knifed and rolled on a steep hill on Perdrisat Road in Maude at around 2am.
“It was late at night and we turned onto a road. There were no markings saying it had a steep downgrade. His brakes were already quite hot at the time and he ended up rolling his truck,” Teixeira recalled.
“I was pinned in the truck but when I got myself out of the wreckage, my partner’s phone had landed next to me and I found Kevin underneath the truck. I couldn’t decipher what was what. I wandered up the hill to get service and called emergency services.” Porker was just 40 years old.
Teixeira was air-lifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. “When I initially came in through trauma, they did everything they had to do and pushed for me to be induced, which I was very against. I pushed it further and further because I didn’t want my baby to be born on the same day that his dad died.”
The next day she gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Kayson, who has just turned four. “It was breathtaking when he came out. He’s everything like his dad: his behaviours, his tendencies, his face – it’s like a reincarnation,” said Teixeira.
In the crash, Teixeira severely injured her hip, hand and shoulder. “I’ve had one hip surgery but the cartilage is ripped off the bone. That can’t be fixed so I’ll eventually need a hip replacement. I also tore all of the ligaments in my thumb so I don’t have full usage of my hand and I’ve had shoulder surgery. Psychologically it has had a massive impact too.”
Prior to the crash, the couple had spoken about Teixeira getting her truck licence once she was ready to return to work after having the baby. “I had lived in America for nine years, where I drove big coach buses. I had also been a nurse in a past life, but trucking had really drawn me. I know he would’ve still wanted me to get my truck licence and that’s what I’ve continued doing,” said Teixeira.
She did her driver training through the same company that had trained Porker all those years ago. “It was
massively difficult but the trainer was really patient with me and had a really good understanding of my situation. I couldn’t have asked to have a better trainer.”
In August 2017, Teixeira gained her truck licence. By January 2020, she had progressed through to her MC licence. She now lives in Lameroo and has been a truckie for three years, the past two of which have been with Parilla Transport, a business based in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia.
She’s usually behind the wheel of a Kenworth K108, but also gets to take some of the other trucks for a spin too. The work is wide and varied, including hauling B-doubles, B-triples and road trains. “I do everything from yard stuff in and around the farms, to trips to Adelaide and SA produce markets. We transport sheep, cattle, potatoes, onions, carrots, grain and fertiliser. There’s a big variety and every day is different – from oversize to tankers and tippers,” said Teixeira.
When asked what she loves most about being on the road, she answered without hesitation, “Just being free and looking out the window from the driver’s seat. I stop by at different petrol stations and get acquainted with lots of different people too. I just love it. There’s nothing like climbing into a truck and having all of those wheels under you.”
And now she hopes she can help to inspire other women and trucking widows to do the same and join her in the industry she loves.