"Trauma trio": Injured officers thank community for unwavering support

Published 11:20am 29 August 2022

"Trauma trio": Injured officers thank community for unwavering support
Words by Ashleigh Howarth
Above: Senior Constable Russell McKelvey is hoping to return to the Queensland Police Service early next year. 

Three police officers who were injured in a horrific accident while on duty earlier this year have spoken about their ordeal and thanked the community for their unwavering support during their time of need.

During a special community event in Caboolture on Friday night, Senior Constable Russell McKelvey, First Year Constable Callum McBride Whitehead and Police Recruit, now First Year Constable Cassidy Cleary, met with Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll, Minister for Police and Member for Morayfield Mark Ryan, along with representatives from other emergency services involved in the response to the incident.

The three officers were allegedly hit head-on by another vehicle while travelling through Caboolture South in response to an urgent call-out on March 12.

The officers sustained various injuries, with Senior Constable McKelvey critically injured in the crash. First Year Constable McBride Whitehead and First Year Constable Cleary, who received less serious injuries, have both since returned to duty in Caboolture.

Senior Constable McKelvey said while the last few months had been rough, he hopes to return to work next year.

“We all know something like this could happen when you sign up, but you just think it’s highly unlikely it will happen to you. But unfortunately, it happened to me. I just got unlucky,” Senior Constable McKelvey said.

“I have got full memory of the incident. The worst thing was I was trapped in the car for a bit over half an hour with all my arms and legs broken and my face bleeding out.

“Then I was in a coma for about a week. I woke up to my lovely wife’s face – that was the first thing I saw.

“The thing you don’t realise is, I thought it was the same day when I came through the coma, but my poor wife had to go through that for a week not knowing what was going on.”

Senior Constable McKelvey broke both his ankles, snapped his legs, broke his left arm and right elbow, and had substantial facial injuries.

He has also undergone multiple surgeries.

“I have got metal in every limb and in my face now, but I’m going pretty good considering what injuries I had,” he said.

“I am on my way to recovery.

“I am hoping to be back by early next year. I love the job and I wouldn’t have gotten the support I did from any other workplace.

“I’ve still got at least 20 years to give to the Queensland Police Service.”

"Trauma trio": Injured officers thank community for unwavering support
Above: First Year Constable Cassidy Cleary with Moreton District Officer Superintendent John Hallam and colleagues.

Back in the line of duty

For Constable Cassidy Cleary, this is not the way she imagined starting her policing career.

“The number one question afterwards was, did I think about leaving and not continuing on with the policing journey, but honestly it didn’t cross my mind,” Constable Cleary said.

“I think I went into the recruit phrase with the mindset that this is the job, we put ourselves out into the community and in these situations this sort of stuff happens.”

Constable Cleary has thanked not only the Moreton Bay community, but also members of the Kilcoy community who came together to raise more than $16,000 to assist in their recovery.

Knowing she and her fellow colleagues has support from so many people in the community made returning to the line of duty an easy decision.

“The community support we have had is nothing like I have ever experienced in a workplace or even just in the general community,” Constable Cleary said.

“Having that support makes me feel ready to jump back in.”

The incident has also created a lifelong bond between them all.

“We call ourselves the trauma trio - it was a horrific situation, but we have come out of it with this friendship and connection. We will be friends for life because of it,” Constable Cleary said.

Constable McBride Whitehead has also offered his thanks.

“Everyone has come together to help us out,” he said.

“It’s been amazing – all the support from the community, and the fundraiser out in Kilcoy in the early days.”

"Trauma trio": Injured officers thank community for unwavering support
Above: First Year Constable Callum McBride Whitehead has returned to active duty.

Ongoing support

Police Commissioner Carroll said the show of community support for the officers was heart-warming.

“Officers within the Moreton District have had more than their fair share of tragedy in recent years, but I am relieved to see that the health of these three officers is now improving,” Commissioner Carroll said.

“No one should go to work and risk injury or worse, but our police selflessly do so every day in service of the community.

“We will continue to support these officers, their families and their colleagues to make a safer work environment for all QPS officers.”

Minister for Police and Member for Morayfield Mark Ryan said “we stand proudly side by side with our police”.

“Our greatest strength as a society lies in those who use their expertise to help others,” Minister Ryan said.

“Our police and emergency services personnel provide tremendous support to our whole community and also to one another in moments of crisis.

“People from the community of Caboolture and, more widely Moreton, have shown tremendous support to these officers and their colleagues through this challenging time.”

"Trauma trio": Injured officers thank community for unwavering support

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