Man survives truck crashing 40-60m down cliff

A MAN has survived a terrifying crash over a cliff west of Brisbane and managed to climb about 40m back to the road to get help.

James Sleight was driving a pantech truck, with a 21-foot caravan in tow, to the Samford Show last Thursday morning when his brakes failed coming down Mt Glorious, about 14km from Samford.

Mr Slight a Perth-based ventriloquist and puppeteer who performs his Dinkum Dinosaurs act on the show circuit, says he has now added "truck stunt driver" to his resume.

"There's a fairly big hairpin bend, a really sharp one. I've managed to take the truck round that on two wheels with the caravan floating behind it," Mr Sleight said.

"And (I) got round that one, got the truck back onto to four wheels and then there's a little chicane and then you hit the corner.

"I just couldn't make it round that corner."

But he was unaware of steep drop to the left, which he later estimated at 40-60m.

"I'm expecting the truck to land on its side and stop. Or, worst case scenario, it might roll," he said.

The truck and caravan driven by James Sleight crashed off Mt Glorious Rd (top left) into this ravine.
The truck and caravan driven by James Sleight crashed off Mt Glorious Rd (top left) into this ravine.

So he got a shock when he went over the edge, about 50m uphill of Warwick's Corner.

"So the thought going through my mind is 'holy shit, it's going and going and going, what the hell's going on?'."

"It's flashed through my head, 'this is it, it's all over'."

"There was definitely a moment there I was thinking to myself 'hang on mate, you might not make it, paraplegic, dead' - all those things.

"It felt like it rolled about five times on the way down.

"It's really hard to tell, when a trucks rolling, how many times it goes around. It certainly rolled a minimum of twice.

"Here was that lary sensation of watching the world tumble by, while you are trying to curl yourself into a brace position as described by the lovely airline hostess."



The wreckage of Mr Sleight’s truck.
The wreckage of Mr Sleight’s truck.




When it stopped he was hanging upside down in his seat belt.

"OK, you remember all the movies where five minutes after the accident the thing burst into flames and the person is trapped in it?" he said.

"Maybe I should not be here when that happens.

"I went 'get out of the truck' so I've undone the seat belt, and realises the truck is still running.

"I'm thinking 'it's pumping fuel, that's probably a bad idea'. So I've turned the ignition off, (and) climbed out the window.

"Some idiot crawled out of that truck and dragged himself up the said 40-60m cliff and was waiting for the paramedics at the top.

"I probably wasn't thinking rationally at the time, I was thinking 'oh, I'd better get up this cliff'."

He escaped with a slight scratch on his head, a couple of little marks on his hands and a bruised cheek.



James Sleight (in character as Ranger Jim) with Dezzy Dinosaur.
James Sleight (in character as Ranger Jim) with Dezzy Dinosaur.




"The rest of me is just a walking miracle - what can I say," he said.

But the truck had been "peeled open" and the caravan "smashed to smithereens".

Luckily the puppets he needed for the core of the show could be recovered and he was able to perform at the Samford Show on Saturday and Sunday.

Highvale resident Peter Webb said he had seen several accidents at that location, but none had crashed further down the slope than Mr Sleight.

Mr Sleight will fly to the Northern Territory to perform at the Katherine and Darwin shows over the next two weekends.

"The show must go on mate," he said.

Samford Show Society president Terry Hogan was thrilled he had made the effort to still perform under the circumstances.

"He's a really good showman. He had them enthralled," Mr Hogan said.

Mr Hogan said a show society member gave him accommodation on the night of the accident and the society had since paid for Mr Sleight and his partner Ally to stay at a local B&B.

The truck and caravan were insured but his other gear is not.

The couple is now looking at downsizing Dinkum Dinosaurs so it fits in a trailer that can be towed behind a vehicle they can live in.