ROAD SAFETY signs dot the Bruce Highway running south from Mackay.
Some feature novel questions and bright colours, designed to increase driver concentration.
On Thursday, two kilometres south of the small town of Koumala, the crumpled wreck of a white ute with fluffy pink toys spilling from its tray provided a stark reminder why the message of road safety is so heavily enforced in this region.
Around 8.20am, a man, 30, and a three-year-old girl were killed when their southbound ute veered, for reasons unknown, onto the wrong side of the highway and slammed into a northbound truck.
A 32-year-old woman, who was a passenger in the ute, was taken to Mackay Base Hospital in a critical condition but later also died.
Police said all three, believed to be a family, were from Ayr.
The truck driver, a locally known man, miraculously escaped the incident uninjured, though was also taken to hospital suffering from shock.
Maria McMillan heard everything from her house.
"It was a big bang... we were just having breakfast and I looked out and I saw smoke and the front of a truck on the side of the road," Mrs McMillan said.
"We thought it might be a tyre exploding but with that smoke it was just too much.
"So my husband rushed out and then he rang me two or three minutes later and told me to come down with the first aid kit."
Despite her efforts, Mrs McMillan said there was little she could do.
"I came down and we couldn't really do much (because) she was bleeding a lot and my husband was just holding her head. It was just a mess.
"It's a shock and you feel... well I felt sorry for the family because someone lost a father, an uncle, a cousin... so it's a sad thing."
After the incident, Mrs McMillan handed sweets and biscuits she had brought from home to emergency service workers.
"They're just to say thank you. You've got to support what the firies, policemen and (paramedics) go through," she said.
"It's not an easy job when something like this happens.
"It does affect them, but they try to cope with it and it's hard."
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