May 30, 2021

7: Outback Australia Motorcycle Crash Survivor


**WARNING** This episode features details of a serious road accident and includes some graphic details. 

A 1,000 mile day trip along the edge of hot and dusty outback Western Australia turned into a disaster when Michael Pitt’s motorcycle hit a kangaroo.

The father-of-three who emigrated to Australia from Devon with his wife and eldest child 15 years ago, was fortunate to have survived the serious accident in the very isolated Pilbara region of WA.

The experienced motorcyclist was traveling from Karratha in the state’s far north down to Mandurah, just south of Perth in 2018 after a two week stint of shift work.  

 

Bullet points of key topics & time stamps:  

● 03:21 – Michael describes the outback road he was traveling along

● 06:02 – Michael shares some of the dangers of traveling by road in outback Australia

● 10:13 – Michael tells us how he survived

● 12:03 – Michael talks about his injuries

● 17:25 – Find out whether the accident has put Michael off returning to the Pilbara region 

 

List of resources mentioned in episode, suggested reading & social media handles:  

Road Safety Advice for traveling in Western Australia’s north west

The Pilbara region of Western Australia

Western Australia

***

This episode is sponsored by Kilted Haggis.

Authentic Scottish family serving popular food from their homeland at Grazeland in Melbourne.
Open Friday from 5pm and Saturday/Sunday from 12pm.

Follow them on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/kiltedhaggis19

Add them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/kiltedhaggis19


***

Britstralian Producer and Host: Anna Moran

 USEFUL LINKS 

Website: www.britstralian.com

Like us on Instagram 

Follow us on Twitter  

Find us on Facebook  

 Join our Facebook community to discuss the show.  

Share this podcast  

*** 

Britstralian acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the Land we have recorded this podcast on. The area now known as the City of Armadale was originally occupied by the Noongar people many thousands of years before European settlement. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. 

 *** 

NOTE: The views and opinions shared by the guest(s) in this podcast are the views and personal experiences of the guest(s) and are not necessarily representative of the views or  opinions of Britstralian and the host.

See Buzzsprout’s Privacy Policy for Privacy Information.

Disclaimer:

The views and opinions shared by the guest(s) in this podcast are the views and personal experiences of the guest(s) and are not necessarily representative of the views or  opinions of Britstralian and the host. 

Britstralian will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information.

Transcript

Anna (00:16)

just a warning that this episode contains some graphic details, and our guest talks about his involvement in a serious road accident.

 

Michael (00:26)

Hi, I'm Michael, I've been a British Australian for 15 years, I fell off my motorbike in the outback, and I'm very lucky boy to be alive.

 

Anna (0:40)

The Pilbara is a large region of North Western Australia. It's home to a city called Karratha and a few other isolated towns. The region is twice the size of the UK. But the population is tiny in comparison, so there's lots of empty space. You can travel for hours without seeing another person. And that is why Michael believes he's lucky to be alive. 

He was fighting for his life at the side of a road, around 100 miles from the nearest city, in a place where temperatures can reach close to 50 degrees and it rarely gets below 30 during the day. But fortunately for him, there was an iron ore mine site, close to the scene where he came off his motorbike.

 

Michael (01:33)

Imagine driving your car at 105 miles an hour. 

Take you seatbelt off.

Open the door.

And jump out. 

That's what I did. Except I wasn't sitting in a car. 

 

Okay, full name is Michael Pitt. I live in Mandurah in Western Australia, and I've been in Australia since January ’06, I believe. Fifteen years, yeah. 

 

Anna (01:55)

Where are you from originally?

 

Michael (01:57)

I was born in Romsey in Hampshire and I spent 23 years in Devon and then I couldn't wait to leave. I came to Sydney for a wedding. I came back not quite a year later. And I've been here ever since. 

 

Anna (02:10)

What visa did you come on, to come back? 

 

Michael (02:12)

I had a resident visa. I came in through my trade.

 

 

Anna (02:16)

Okay, and what's your trade 

 

Michael (02:17)

A mechanic. 

 

Anna (02:18)

So, Michael, we've got you in here today to talk about your motorbike accident. How long ago was that?

 

Michael (02:24)

26th of September 2018. At the time, I was living and working in Karratha up, way up north and I relocated back to Perth. I was intending to ride my bike from Karratha to Mandurah, on my own.

 

Anna (02:41)

Okay, so just for people who are listening back home, what kind of distance is that?

 

Michael (02:45)

That’s about 1,685 km’s. 

 

Anna (02:48)

So just over a thousand miles.

 

Michael (02:50)

Just over a thousand miles, yeah. And you don't leave the state. Give you some idea of how big and how vast the North is.

 

Anna (02:57)

It's not like a road that you'd get back in England, is it?

 

Michael (02:59)

No.

You can travel for quite some distance without seeing anyone. You're probably as barren as you want-, as it gets really.  It’s, um-, it’s a track going straight through the middle of desert. If you ever watch a movie, where they've got like a big long road going right through the middle of, you know, say the Grand Canyon, or something like that. It's a bit like that, without the hills. And red dirt. It's just-that’s it.

 

Anna (03:22)

That's it as a good way to describe it. 

 

Michael (03:23)

That is it. 

 

Anna (03:24)

So why did you decide to do this on a motorbike? 

 

Michael (03:27)

I was living in the north. I lived in Hedland and Karratha for three and a half years. And I'd moved all my stuff down on my week off. Because I couldn't fit my bike in, I thought, “Ah. Road trip. That'd be a good idea. What could possibly go wrong?” I had a rucksack on, with just the remnants of what I had left. A full tank gas. Half a pack of cigarettes and away I went.

 

Anna (03:55)

Gosh. Because in Australia, when you do big long journeys-, big road trips. People say to carry five liters of water, per person, per day. Enough dried food with you to last- I think it's like three days, or something. 

 

Michel (04:11)

Yeah, yeah. Survival things. 

 

Anna (04:14)

Yes.

 

Michael (04:14)

Yeah, because you can die out there pretty quickly. I wasn't carrying a drop of water. I wasn't carrying any food. I wasn't carrying extra fuel. I planned the whole trip. I knew exactly the distances between the road houses. I knew what my bike would do. My-, my bike, at a push, would do 300km’s to a tank and there was one stint; Billabong. Billabong Roadhouse, which is way down south. That was the only leg that I was going to have to ride fairly steady on. The rest of it was just quick squirts between road houses. And road houses are just sort of these little servo shop, buildings in the middle of th-, it’s the only thing you come to. There's nothing else there.  It’s basically just to fill up with fuel and go again.

 

Anna (04:57)

So, you were relying on being able to stop in these places to get yourself a drink of water and-

 

Michael (05:02)

And some fuel, more than anything. Yeah.,

 

I left Karratha-. This is all, I don't remember any of this. I've got no memory of-, I have nothing other than a small screenshot of finishing work on the Tuesday morning, after I finished my last night shift. And Trish, the lady that was in the office, was in tears. I think that I was leaving. I've since seen her and spoken to her and said, ‘Do you remember the last thing I said to you?” And I goes, “No,  I got nothing, nothing at all”. She said, “Watch out for kangaroos. Watch out for cattle. And go steady”. 

I left at 4am, which was probably my first mistake, I'd say. Because if you ever go to the Pilbara, the red dirt sort of country, if it's dawn, dusk or dark, you do not speed because it's just one massive cattle station. Basically, there are cattle just roaming around in herds all over the place, and they will just wander out into the road. And if you go further north, they'll be camels as well. You make sure you're on high beam and you do not blink because they will just come out of nowhere. 

 

Anna (06:02)

Come out of nowhere, don’t they.

 

Michael (06:04)

Yeah.

 

Anna (06:05)

That's another thing I was gonna say-, is that in Australia-, it's kind of advisable that if you're planning on doing a road trip out of the city, that you avoid driving when it's dark, or at dusk-

 

Michael (06:17)

Yeah. I don't know what I was thinking, I really don't. To leave at 4am, would have been pitch black. I had an idea I was trying to make Perth in 12 hours. Thouand miles in12 hours. I didn't think that was not do-able. You'd have to be averaging about 80, 85 

 

Anna (06:36)

Miles an hour?

 

 Michael (06:37)

Yeah. Which, when you're on a road that's dead straight for like 10 or 12 kilometers in a-. It's like an arrow. 

 

Anna (06:46)

So what happened? 

 

Michael (06:49)

Okay, so it was dark. So I made it to Fortescue, and I gunned in there about 5am. And then I can remember paying for fuel. And I can remember the exact amount. It was $10.01, 6.84 liters. I remember that-, it’s just etched into my brain. And I paid for fuel at 5.12 in the morning, and then either left Fortescue, sometime between 5:20 and 5:25am, which was still dark. It would have been dark for another, sort of, 20 minutes, half an hour. And then at 5:44. That's when the ‘000’ call went in to emergency services. And I was about 55km's down the road. So I've done 55km's in 20 minutes. So, I'm doing about 160, 170km's an hour. The sun would have been coming up and because there's no there's-, no barrier to light, it does brighten up very, very quickly and you can see an awful lot of distance. So, unless you've got something bang at the side of the road, I'm not going to slow down. So, I just-. I crashed about two kilometers north of the Panawonica turn off. And Panawonica is a mine. I'd left Fortescue Roadhouse between 5:20 and 5:25 in the morning. I was headed then for Nanutarra Roadhouse, which is the next one on, which is between 160, 170km’s. And I'm in a hurry. So-. I've been back to the scene. And I can understand why I was riding so fast. Because of like-, the vegetation is low, there's no tree line, there's nothing for anything to hide behind. If you're going to see it, you're going to see it because it's dead-, there's just parallel, either side of the road. You can see for miles on a on a clear day. You can see for miles.

 

Anna (08:41)

In your mind, whilst you're riding, you're probably thinking there's not much is ever kangaroo hopping out in front of you.

 

Michael (08:45)

No. Nothing. Considering I've lived in the Pilbara for over three years, you know that you do not ride, or drive- 

 

Anna (08:54)

In the desert-

 

Michael (08:54)

In the desert, at speed, when it's dark. Because you-, you just don't stand a chance. I’ve been back to the scene. I went back to the scene almost two years to the day. So, I went at the end of last year. There is one-. One blind spot in the whole of the horizon. And it's a ridge of rock. Right, so it's the only blind spot and you come out of a place called Blackheart Creek. And as I've come up over the top of the crest-, and there's been a Roo standing right in the middle of the road. And I've hit him, full noise, on the left side. 

 

The paramedic was the first guy I spoke to, and that took about six months for me to pluck up the courage to call him. I often had his number in my phone, I just had to hit the green-. I don't really know what I was gonna get told, because I knew nothing. He said, “At first sight, I thought it was already a fatality, because you were blue and you weren't breathing. There was no signs of any kind of life in you whatsoever”. So, it's a group of miracles, I think, that-, considering where you are-. If you can imagine being in one of the loneliest places on earth, miles from anywhere, and somebody is with you within seconds-.I mean, you can cover 200km’s and not see another living soul. So you can say that guy saved my life. I would have-, I would have been dead. I would have basically-, it was put to me as, “You would have just drowned on your own blood”. So, my crash helmet was still on. They reckon the whole-, the whole movie of everything is there, but just, just says no, you don't need to see that. 

 

Anna (10:34)

Crazy.  So then what was the next thing that happened? 

 

Michael (10:38)

They asked the Royal Flying Doctors to land an aircraft in the road to take me straight to Perth, so I could be airlifted straight to Perth. But there was no aircraft available. So, they rush me by road back to Karratha. 

 

Anna (10:51)

Back to where you started off your journey. 

 

Michael (10:53)

Yeah, pretty much. And I ended up back in Karratha until about seven that night, when I was eventually flown down to Royal Perth, Trauma Ward that night. I arrived back at 10:30 I believe. I presume they didn't have sort of level of care that I needed.

 

Anna (11:10)

So what's the next thing you remember?

 

Michael (11:12)

Waking up in the trauma ward in Royal Perth on Sunday night. 

 

Anna (11:16)

In the hospital? 

 

Michael (11:17)

Yeah. So I crashed it just before quarter six on the Wednesday morning. And then I don't remember anything until Sunday night in Royal Perth. 

 

Anna (11:27)

Goodness me. 

 

Michael (11:29)

Yeah, I don't have anything at all.Nothing at all.

 

Anna (11:31)

There’s a few days there. 

 

Michael (11:24)

Big Hole. 

 

Anna (11:35)

What were your injuries? You woke up and what state were you in?

 

Michael (11:39)

That's the first thing I remember. I remember I was-, I was lying flat.  I had no pillows or anything like that. And I was laying flat. And it was very bright. And a lady, or a young girl, or something. She came right above me. She was right over my face. And I remember her saying, “You with us sweetheart?” 

Both my arms were in plaster. And I sort of gestured to her with my-, my hands, “What? What have I done? What have I done?” 

And the first thing she said to me was, “You've broken your neck”.

And I didn't hear another word she said. Because I was just thinking, “Oh, my God. Now what? You've broken your neck. You know-“

 

Anna (11:25)

You're paralised-

 

Michael (11:26)

Yeah, I could be in trouble here. And then said, “You’ve broken your spine”. 

She said, “You've got six fractured ribs in multiple places. A punctured left lung”.

I had clean broken my right arm. Broken both my wrists. And my handlebars had punched number four and number five metacarpal out of my left hand, out through the back of my skin. They were just smashed to pieces. I had, erm, racing gloves on, with, like a plastic knuckle guard. That ended up in my hand.

 

Anna (12:56)

Wow. Just for people listening. Obviously they can't see you. You are all in one piece. You walked in here today with no aids. 

 

Michael (13:04)

I did, yeah.

 

Anna (13:05)

You wouldn't know looking at you. Which is quite amazing-

 

Michael (13:08).

Yeah. Yes. I have a photograph of me, the night I was born in Royal Perth, where I was conscious. I have no memory of it. 

 

Anna (13:20)

What's it like seeing that? 

 

Michael (13:23)

You know, it's you. You know it’s-. You're looking at a picture of you. It’s on your phone. It’s definitely you. But you-, you know you don't sort of-. When you've got other holiday snaps and, you know, happy pictures and things like that, you can remember-, you remember where you were, you remember how warm it was. You remember which way the wind was blowing. You can remember who you were with. You remember other people. but when I look at those-, it's very hard to put into words. You know it's you. Someone that looks like me. All bashed around and busted. But it is me, it’s definitely me.

 

Anna (13:59)

Did you end up having psychiatric help? Did you speak to anybody? 

 

Michael (14:02)

No, No.

 

Anna (14:03)

Do you think you ever will?

 

Michael (14:05)

I wish I had. To someone like me, who has a very graphic memory, in a very graphic way that I can visualise things in my head-. But I've got six, seven days where I have absolutely nothing. And that has been very hard for me, personally, to deal with.

 

Anna (14:27)

Did anyone try to warn you from doing the trip? 

 

Michael (14:30)

Yeah. 

 

Anna (14:32)

Lots of people?

 

Michael (13:34)

I’d done the trip before.

 

Anna (13:35)

On your motorbike? 

 

Michael (13:35)

Yep. 

 

Anna (13:37)

So, this wasn't new to you then, something like that?

 

Michael (14:39)

No. I'd ridden-. I'd had my bike up there for three years, or more.

 

 

Anna (14:44)

And have you seen many kangaroos hop out in front of you whilst you’ve been driving?

 

Michael (14:47)

Heaps. And cattle. Lots of times. Lots of times. So it's kind of like, “What were you thinking?” 

I knew the risk. And when I speak to people, it’s like-, I was doing ,like, between 160 and 170 miles- em, kms an hour, which is about 105 miles an hour. I never stood a chance, I don’t think. I don't think I was-

 

Anna (15:10)

And are you back on motorbikes now?

 

Michael (15:13)

I ride the same motorcycle.

 

Anna (15:15

you don't? 

 

Michael (15:16)

I do. 18 months to the day, I think, was my first ride. 

 

Anna (15:20)

Wow. How did that feel? 

 

Michael (15:24)

Like I'd never been away.  Whether it's because I have no memory of this-, of this crash. I don't know? The bike rides exactly as I remember it. It handles exactly the same as I remember it. It sounds and behaves exactly as i remember it. I've been riding motorcycles for 30 plus years. I've had a lot of close calls and near misses, but I've never had anything like this. And physically, yeah, it hurts. It does hurt. Incredible amount. But the mental side of it, I didn't see that coming at all. The whole, you know, you didn't-, you don't remember anything for six or seven days. Why is that a problem? But it is a problem. The doctors reckon that everything that happened, is there. The whole accident is there. It's all there. But your subconscious goes, you don't really need to see that. You imagine driving your car at 105 miles an hour. Take you seatbelt off, open the door and jump out. That's what I did. Except I wasn't sitting in a car.

 

Anna (16:35)

Add to that, I guess, the risk that there's probably nobody-m no other human being potentially fo-

 

Michael (16:42)

For, yeah.

 

Anna (16:43)

Hundreds of miles

 

Michael (16:44)

Hundreds of K’s. Yeah. It's a bit-, and for that, sort of, that, chain event of miracles to happen is the only reason I'm sitting here. I knew I’d get to Perth in under 12. I didn't think I'd do it in an airplane. 

 

Anna (17:02)

Has it put you off Australia-, like do you-?

 

Michael (17:04)

No, I would go back to the Pilbara tomorrow. The best way I can describe it is, you'll find places in the Pilbara where it feels like you're walking into the center spread of a National Geographic magazine. That's the best way I can describe it. Some of those places are just-, they've been that way for millions and millions of years and they're still there. Mother Nature is just showing off. It’s a beautiful, rugged, raw part of the world and I love it.

 

Anna (17:39)

And don't forget to hit subscribe, so you don't miss the next episode of Britstralian. 

 

We asked our Britstralian Facebook Community Group where in Australia they live, or where they're heading to, when they make the big move. Twenty seven per cent said WA. Another 27% said Victoria. Twenty two per cent said Queensland. Nineteen per cent said New South Wales. Only two members voted South Australia. One said the Australian Capital Territory and one voted Tasmania. and we didn't have any Britstralian votes for the Northern Territory. We'd love you to take part in the next Britstralian poll. Just join us on Facebook, search for Britstralian all one word and we'll see you in there.