It was supposed to be the perfect post-Christmas camping getaway for her boyfriend's birthday.

But Australian Madeleine Simpson and her car full of friends never made it to the campsite.

Sitting in the back seat of the car, a then 18-year-old Madeleine Simpson was accompanied by two friends and her boyfriend, Narhyl Bennett, as they ventured down a "deserted dirt road" en route to their campsite.

"We only had one P-plater in the car, and an L-plater," Simpson, who is now 20, told


"He got tired, and so decided to swap driving with my other friend who had his Ls.

"But a few hours in, he got distracted and started veering off the road.

"He over corrected, and that's when the car flipped - and I flew out the window."

Suffering from car sickness, Simpson decided to unclip her seatbelt just 10 minutes before the crash happened on January 31, 2015.

They were just five hours into the roadtrip from Brisbane to rural NSW.

After being catapulted from the back seat, Simpson lay unconscious under the bonnet of the flipped car.

Her chest and lungs started to crush, and her skin singed under the hot engine as she lay motionless.

Simpson's friends tried desperately to pull the car off her, while also keeping an eye on her boyfriend who lay unconscious outside the vehicle.


"I was under the car for two minutes before I woke up again," she said.

"I was the only one trapped under the car, under the bonnet, which was crushing and burning my arms and chest.

"There was a time where I couldn't think or breathe. I was just yelling to get the car off
me, but I think it took a minute for me to realise my arm was sizzling under the engine.

"I could feel the pain, but it was a numb tingling under the surface of my skin.

After five minutes, Bennett woke up and was able to assist his friends. He walked over and helped lift the vehicle just enough so Simpson was able to roll out from under the engine before passing out again.

"I'm told the helicopter arrived 30 minutes after I rolled from underneath the car," Simpson said.

Madeleine Simpson was trapped under the car for more than five minutes until her friends were able to lift it off her. Photo / Supplied
Madeleine Simpson was trapped under the car for more than five minutes until her friends were able to lift it off her. Photo / Supplied

"I didn't wake up again until I was in hospital, where the doctor's told me that they couldn't do surgery because I needed metal rods inserted into my back."

Simpson was transferred to Princess Alexandra Hospital the next day, where she received treatment for a shattered spine, third degree burns that required grafts, severed tendons in her wrist, fractured pelvis and collarbone as well as an additional skin graft to her right calf.

"I had a neck brace on, and was completely immobile," Simpson recalled.

"I couldn't breathe on my own. My face was bruised, and I felt like I was really beaten up.

"They had to fuse my back together with rods, and reattach ligaments in my wrist.

"The skin graft was the worst. They had to shave skin off my leg and put it on arm and calf, but the first surgery for my burned arm got infected, so they had to repeat the surgery two more times for it to work.

"It was horrible, like I didn't have any skin on my leg, just this horrible stinging."

Spending two month in hospital, Ms Simpson admitted there were times she feared she wouldn't make it through.

"I was terrified during the whole process," she said.

"There were lots of scary moments, like when they told Mum I might lose my leg because of the chunk taken out of my leg in the accident that went down to the bone. They
thought it could cause an infection, but luckily that didn't happen."

After leaving hospital, Simpson had to use a walking stick and back brace as she could barely move or shower herself.

"I had plastic bags on half my body to just have a shower," she said.

"I was basically in bed for months, and so sore I couldn't do anything."

Madeleine hopes her injuries will stop others being reckless on the roads. Photo / Supplied
Madeleine hopes her injuries will stop others being reckless on the roads. Photo / Supplied

Today, Simpson has to get daily treatment on her back, and moisturise her burns at least
twice a day.

"I learn to live with it, but the scars are massive and horrendous and impossible to hide," she said.

"The hardest thing was not walking, and I literally had to learn to walk again.

"Not being able to do anything for myself really sucked, and knowing that you're not the only one hurting - that everyone around you is as well is hard too.

Simpson, who is part of Shine Lawyers Road Safety Campaign to raise awareness of the
dangers of driving during the silly season, said she wants to make good of her tragic experience by sharing her safety message.

"From my point of view, the crash was a turning point in my life which forced me to become a very different person," she said.

"I spent two months in hospital with countless injuries, unable to sit, stand or walk. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and the last thing I would wish on another person.

"I want others to be aware that having the luxury of driving is not something that should be taken lightly or played with.

"Lives are at stake every day and lives are lost every day. I was lucky enough to recover and walk away but I can't say it wasn't difficult."