By Rowan Forster
A LABERTOUCHE couple have recounted the gut-wrenching moment their cherished horses BJ and Annie were killed inside their float after being sideswiped by an alleged drunk driver on Ballarto Road.
Lis Winkel and Leigh Bedson have described it as one of the most “”heartbreaking” moments of their lives, forced to helplessly watch as her beloved companions suffered on the side of the road last Wednesday.
One of the horses, Annie, died as a result of the impact while BJ was euthanised by a veterinarian at the scene.
Their vehicle and horse float were also written-off instantly.
Police have since confirmed the driver, a 48-year-old Cranbourne man, tested positive to a preliminary breath test after the collision.
According to Cardinia Highway Patrol, the offender botched an overtaking manoeuvre and shunted the horse float, causing it to veer off the road and crash.
Ms Winkel said both BJ and Annie had been members of the family for more than a decade, bred and raised on the couple’s Alcorn Road property.
“They survived Black Saturday so we really thought they were going to be with us for a long time,” she said.
“It’s torn the stuffing out of us – losing them.
“They were brother and sister and spent their whole lives together, they were real characters.”
Prior to the accident, Ms Winkel and Mr Bedson took BJ and Annie for one final ride, a moment they will cherish forever.
“The parting gift that horse gave me I’ll never forget,” Ms Winkel said.
“We had a beautiful dream run.”
Both BJ and Annie were featured in fundraisers, raising money for education programs in Africa.
While the couple escaped the horrific collision without serious injury, Mr Bedson believes they were lucky to survive.
“We’re lucky to be here considering the force of the impact,” he said.
“The car hit the front axle and the back axle and basically ripped the steel from the car and the float.”
Ballarto Road was brought to a halt for several hours after the accident.
A number of witnesses rushed to the couple’s aid.
“There was a truck driver there who was a real hero,” Ms Bedson said.
“If it wasn’t for him it would have been a lot worse.
“The support from everyone on the scene was just fantastic.”
The horse riding duo has received an outpour of support since the horrific accident, with a fundraiser even being established in their names.
Aaron Park Equestrian Club Secretary Kim Woolley started a GoFundMe campaign for Ms Winkel and Mr Bedson, already raising $9000 in donations.
“We can never replace beloved BJ and Annie, nor do we want to,” Ms Woolley said.
“We ask that if you can spare a few dollars that you contribute to our campaign which we will then provide to Lis and Leigh during their darkest hours.
“The funds raised may contribute to the vet bill from the crash site and if there is any remaining surplus, perhaps Lis and Leigh can take a little holiday somewhere whilst they grieve from such a devastating day.
The couple hope their harrowing experience will prompt motorists to think twice before acting out of impulse or impatience.
“That split second decision can affect the lives of so many others – just like it has ours,” Ms Winkel said.
“The driver didn’t set out to do what he did, he should have been more careful.”