Melissa McGuinness spoke of her heartbreak and horror at Kingaroy State High School recently … she was wearing Jordan’s Year 12 jersey tied around her neck

May 7, 2021

In December 2012, a motor vehicle crash on the M1 Motorway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast claimed five young lives and orphaned a 15-month-old toddler.

Jordan Hayes McGuinness, 18, was the driver of a red Nissan Pulsar which ploughed into the back of a broken down car, causing that vehicle to explode into flames.

Young parents Natasha and Allan Sullivan, both 20, Kody Williams, 18, and his girlfriend Tiana Williams, 17, all died.

Only one person survived … 16-year-old Thomas Bayer who managed to climb through the shattered windscreen of the broken down vehicle, suffering horrific burns.

Year 11 and 12 students at two South Burnett schools were led step-by-step through this tragedy – and its consequences – in a harrowing road safety lecture presented recently by Jordan McGuinness’ mother Melissa.

Jordan – who had just moved out of home and started an apprenticeship – was drunk, had been smoking marijuana and was speeding when the crash occurred.

Crash investigators estimated Jordan was doing 140km/h when he hit the stationary vehicle.

Melissa told southburnett.com.au she wasn’t seeking sympathy; that belonged solely to the victims of her son’s actions and their families.

And she emphasised Jordan would have gone to jail for a very long time if he had survived the incident.

“He died in shame, and that’s how he is going to be remembered,” she said.

“He drunk drove, drug drove, sped and killed four innocent people.”

Melissa and her husband Peter have tried to turn their grief into a youth road safety campaign, “You Choose”, that they believe connects with young people.

They hope their story inspires teenagers to know they have a choice: not to drink and drive, not to speed and to take responsibility for their actions.

Melissa invited her young audience at Kingaroy State High School to imagine she was their mother as she led them through the lead-up to the crash, Jordan’s life beforehand and the flow-on effect the tragedy has had on everyone: “How could this happen to my boy?” 

“Jordan is a relatable person, and we are a relatable family,” Peter told southburnett.com.au

“They can see their family in our family, their mum in Melissa, and their peers in Jordan.”

Melissa told the students they had the ability to make “good choices”, to uplift each other and protect their families from this sort of grief.

And she wants adults to consider their attitudes, too.

“Saying ‘we’ve all done that when were young’ is just not good enough,” she said.

Melissa said she still missed Jordan “terribly” and she will never know why he chose that night to drive home after a work Christmas party.

“I hope you never forget how you feel today,” she told the students.

* * *

The “You Choose” presentation was brought to the South Burnett at the instigation of Nanango Police officer-in-charge Sergeant Brett Smith.

It topped off the “Booze You Lose” QPSRL-NRL League Touch Cup which was run through South Burnett high schools in February and March.

The McGuinness family spoke at both Kingaroy and Nanango State high schools.

“Booze You Lose” was funded from a grant local police received from the National Drug Strategy Law Enforcement Funding Committee (NDSLEFC).

Volunteers in Policing Peter Verbakel and Rosalie Winter with Kingaroy officers Constable Tom Lynam and Constable Tyler Henderson at the Kingaroy State High School presentation
Jordan McGuinness with his parents Melissa and Peter not long before the horror crash that claimed five lives
(Photo: McGuinness Family)

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