Heartwarming survival story inspires first-of-its-kind drivers first aid campaign

Press Release

It has been nearly 20 years since Nicole Tolhurst first met Rod Baltovich, but it is a moment she has been grateful for every day since.

Nicole, then 24 years old, was slumped over the steering wheel of her car after being knocked unconscious when it was sent careering into a brick wall in 2007.

After witnessing the horror crash, Rod came racing to Nicole’s side, reaching into the wreck to lift her head and helping her to breathe – saving her life.

The pair, once strangers, stood hand in hand on Friday with tears in their eyes as they watched their memories play out on screen.

Their story is at the heart of a new campaign from St John WA and the Road Safety Commission, which is calling on every WA road user to arm themselves with simple first aid skills that can save a life in the event of a crash.

The joint campaign, called Anyone Can Save a Life, asks every driver to complete a 15-minute free online first aid course specifically designed for drivers and other road users. 

Watching the campaign for the first time with Nicole by his side, Rod had tears in his eyes knowing how different the outcome could have been had he not done his first aid training.

“When I first saw Nicole slumped over the wheel, it was just dead silent and I was just looking through thinking, this is it,” he said.

“She was knocked unconscious on impact and I just immediately ran around the other side of the vehicle and jumped in.

“It was as simple as just tilting her chin back and opening up the airway.

“And that got us through on the day, just learning the basics.”

The pair have stayed in touch ever since, with Nicole’s mum sending Rod a card every year on the anniversary of the accident to share her thanks.

Rod said he has kept every one.

“I just feel really good that I have done this in my life, it is something that will stay with me forever,” he said.

“To be able to still see Nicole, and now she’s got a beautiful daughter, it just makes you feel as if you’ve done well, which I am pretty proud of.”

Although Nicole doesn’t remember the crash, she said the impact of Rod’s actions had changed the course of her life.

“I am extremely grateful to still be here today,” she said.

“It has been nearly 20 years now and every day I think about that time and remember the car and what it looked like after and am grateful for my life today.

“The car did not come off very well and I was lucky to come off as well as I did, and it was because of that first aid course and Rod being so willing to jump in and help and feeling confident to do so.

“I look back and thank you is not enough.

“If someone can spend 15 minutes to do that course and save a life in the future, well that’s 15 minutes that you will remember forever.”

St John WA Group Chief Executive Officer Kevin Brown said the first few minutes after a crash were vital.

“We know about 15 per cent of road deaths could be avoided with early first aid intervention, particularly to address blocked airways,” Mr Brown said. 
“While there is no substitute for learning quality CPR through an accredited first aid course, spending 15 minutes learning the basics could mean the difference between life and death.”   

Complete the First Aid for Me drivers course here.

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