All hard-working Queensland father-of-three Tim Miller, 40, wanted to do was buy his own truck and set up a haulage business so he could provide for his young family.
After a rocky start sorting finance and shrugging off the initial setback of a truck with a blown engine, RentFleet stepped in to save the day and backed Miller into a stunning Kenworth K104 that ticked all the right boxes.
After several years of driving for others, Miller was finally doing what he loved in his own rig, with big plans to secure his family’s future as an interstate driver.
Less than five weeks later, Miller’s dreams were crushed, and his world turned upside down in the blink of an eye in the early hours of September 24, 2021.
On a routine run from Melbourne to the Gold Coast region hauling water testing tanks, Miller rolled his rig on the Newell Highway between Tooraweenah and Gowang. He initially thought the incident was due to a ‘micro-sleep’, but investigators now suspect a blown steer tyre was the cause.
After life-saving truckie Tony Kelly, who just happened to be passing by, rescued Miller from the wreck and raised the alarm, he was rushed to Dubbo Hospital with a broken neck (C6 and C7), broken eye socket, suspected brain damage, bruises and major cuts under his chin, neck and upper lip.
But because he needed urgent surgery, he was quickly flown to Westmead in Sydney by the Flying Doctor Service.
His fiancée Meaghan Stothers and their children, aged 5, 10 and 15, were hoping he’d be relocated to Brisbane to be closer to his family, but their request was denied due to tight Covid restrictions.
When Miller was eventually discharged, he had no wallet, money, or ID on him, and no way of getting home to Caboolture.
“I was not allowed to drive to Sydney to collect him because of Covid-19, and he couldn’t fly due to this broken eye socket and neck,” said Stothers.
“Luckily, I was able to organise him a lift back across the border with a fellow truckie and I’m so thankful.”
Five months after the crash and Stothers, now Miller’s full-time carer, said her fiancé faces a long road to recovery. She has to shower him, dress him, cut up his food and take him to all his medical appointments.
Although he can now walk and talk, and has made “massive improvements”, Miller has numbness down one side of his face that could take years to repair itself due to nerve damage. Fortunately, recent neck surgery has helped alleviate the pain and discomfort down his left arm, and his eyesight has returned, but his right eye is now permanently recessed by 2mm because of the eye socket fracture.
Due to the brain injury, the extent of which is still to be revealed, Stothers said Miller’s personality, and accent, have also changed.
“My Aussie boy now sounds like a Kiwi, and no one can work out why,” said Stothers, referring to the little-known condition, foreign accent syndrome, which is most common in those who have suffered a head injury.
“I strongly believe he now also suffers from PTSD and anxiety, but we are still in the process of determining this.”
The only bright light in all of this for Stothers is that compulsory third-party insurance cover in NSW is helping off-set costs since Miller’s accident.
But the family now has a $40,000 debt – truck and insurance payments are still due – and although Stothers has applied for carer’s payments, at the time of writing, she has had no word on when those might start.
Stothers also understands there are also no grounds for a compensation payout due to it being a single vehicle accident, which is justing to the financial pressure and strain.
With nowhere else to turn, Stothers started a GoFundMe page last year, titled Help Tim rebuild his life!, and is humbled by the help from strangers so far. To make a donation to help the family out, click here. Every dollar counts.
“You got me on a good day, put it that way,” said Stothers when Big Rigs checks in to see how the family is coping.
“Life has been a struggle. There are days when everything piles on top of you with 1000 things to do, and there’s only one of me.
“But we try to look on the positive side as much as we can.”
Stothers said Miller still hasn’t given up hope of one day getting back behind the wheel.
“It all comes down to the [neck] surgery and his recovery – he probably has a 50-50 chance of driving a truck again.”