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Too fast, too soon – Domenic’s story

Safety Advocates

Domenic Cocco was just seven years old when he suffered life-threatening injuries after crashing his quad bike into a power pole.

In the film, his parents Jodie and Mario, talk about the horrifying experience and what may have made all the difference.

“You think it’s not going to happen to you...make sure they’ve got the right protective equipment on, make sure they’re wearing a helmet, and make sure they know how to operate it properly.” Jodie Cocco

Learn more about quad bike safety.

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Mario: It's still hard today to, sit back and think about what happened. From 18 months to now as a family we’ve been through one of the hardest things ever. If anything out of this is just one family not to go through the, heartache and the pain.

Fiona: It's devastating. It changes everybody's lives.

Jodie: It was just a 50cc. Wasn't a big bike. Thinking it won't go very fast. It will be ok. Everything went wrong.

Frank: What a dreadful thing to go through. You know what Mario's been through and Jodie and myself.

Mario: I'm a, yeah, emergency service worker. I'm a station officer for Queensland Fire and Emergency services. Not once did I ever think that I'd have to render assistance to one of my own family. We're in a small rural community called Atherton. You know we're approximately an hour and a half west of Cairns. A very good friend of mine, he's probably my best friend. He's got 2 boys and one of thems about the same age as Domenic, one's a bit older. And his oldest boy, it was his 10th birthday. So we decided to go to Tinaroo, have a bit of an afternoon and the boys played and swam and it was just a really good fun afternoon.

Frank: It was a footy grand finals. And then, I said, we'll go Mario's. We'll go back and watch the footy.

Mario: The boys came in, asking Frank if they could ride the motorbike.

Jodie: Frank's 2 boys had ridden the quad bike first. They both had a go first. And then Domenic's like no I want to do it by myself. I want to have a go by myself. I can do it Mum. So I had sort of you know I assessed it. You know went through where the brakes were. Same braking system as his BMX bike. I then put him in, the bike and him in the direction where it was nice and flat. I went through those safety precautions in my head. Still thinking that he was capable of riding the bike and being able to control it. So everything that went through my head, those safety steps that went through my head all went wrong.

Mario: And I remember we were just sitting back and the national anthem came on and the kids come running in.

Frank: All I can remember is my youngest one Jessie come in screaming.

Mario: And they just kept yelling Domenic, Domenic, Domenic.

Jodie: He was probably on that bike for 5 seconds, if that, and just went full throttle. And while I was yelling out to him stop, stop, put the brakes on, the bike hit the power pole. Which Dominque was then thrown off the bike and then he landed down onto the bitumen road. When I picked him up off the road I didn't know if he was alive.

Mario: As I walked out the door, I seen Jodie running up. She was basically carrying and he was limp you know his arms were flapping. And yelling, call an ambulance call an ambulance there's been an accident. I started dialling 000 on the mobile phone and she said to me he's not breathing, he's not breathing. So I took him and placed him on the ground. And instinct just kicked in and just laid him on the ground and put his head back.

Jodie: I remember screaming at Mario, make him breathe, make him breathe. He has to breathe.

Mario: I got him breathing again and then, he was bleeding from the back of his head and I remember his eyes were just rolling and the gurgling sound that was coming out of his throat. And I just kept telling his Domenic stay with me mate, just stay with me.

Patrick: So we were airborne on our way to Mount Garnet at the time and we got a call to divert the helicopter to Atherton hospital. You had a young boy on a quad bike. Mechanism of injury was the bike versus a power pole. Wasn't wearing a helmet. You absolutely are thinking that it's quite serious and it's quite significant what's happened.

Mario: The emergency doctor off the helicopter said to me, said look we're going to take him to Townsville. We're going to put him in an induced coma. And I just looked at him and said I'm coming with ya. I remember landing, in Townsville and yeah getting off the chopper. Remember them wheeling him out of the ICU and taking him down to the operation. Like a scene out of a movie. They stopped and that's when I kissed him and said Dad's here mate, love you. You're going to be alright. He was still in his coma but he was tossing and turning and the nurses were trying to calm him down. And I was standing there and said don't worry mate Dad's here. Dad's right here and he sort of stopped and looked at me and put his arms out and sort of gave him a cuddle and he sort of tapped me on the back saying everything's aright Dad. Even though he was in this coma he could still hear me and, and say it's all good. We didn't know when they brought him out of his coma whether he, you know what he'd be like. Whether he would walk, talk. Be the same kid. You know we were told he'd never have the same personality. You know. He bruised all the nerve endings in his brain. He's actually shook it.

Dr. Tony: When you get an impact to the scull you tend to get 2 injuries. Firstly the injury at the point of impact to, to the scull and the brain underneath there. And secondly an injury called a counter-coo injury which is basically where the brain rebounds and you may get another injury sort of opposite the initial injury.

Fiona: Around one in five of all serious incidents on quad bikes is brain trauma. If people are wearing a helmet. A correctly fitted helmet then they reduce that risk of that.

Mario: The doctors told us that be prepared to be in Townsville for 3-6 months.

Frank: It was shocking. I mean I was down in Townsville the next day just to be beside him. It wasn't a good feeling.

Jodie: We just had to stay positive. You know and if the outcome was that he needed, permanent care, long time care, whatever it was, we were going to do it. It didn't matter.

Mario: Olivia. Olivia found, she's found it the hardest. So she seen the whole thing happen. Something that you wouldn't want a 5 year old to see. You know.

Jodie: She wouldn't go up to Domenic's bed when he was in ICU. Didn't want to touch him because he had tubes coming out of him and all the machines that were behind his bed. Because he got that initial care so quickly and so soon that had helped then with his recovery. So he'd have sessions with physio, OT, speech therapist.

Mario: Within 5 weeks we were coming home. Compared to what we were told originally by the ICU doctor. And to see him 18 months later. He's back on the BMX track, he's running, he's playing. He was a fighter. Definitely a fighter.

Fiona: If Domenic was wearing a helmet the day of his incident, he probably wouldn't have gone through all of the pain and suffering that he's gone through and that his family has gone through. It may have been a very, very different set of circumstances.

Patrick: With quad bike injuries, the regular occurrence which you will see is either head injuries, falling off a bike, injuries associated with crushing. Either the bike landing on top of them.

Fiona: When children are operating any vehicle, any quad bike, they need to understand the limitations. And the best person to do that is Mom or Dad.

Mario: It comes back to the parent's responsibility to make sure these kids know how to handle these things. If they're going to put them on there. The right size for the right child. Make sure that they know how to handle it. Domenic was inexperienced.

Fiona: When people receive quad bike training from an accredited trainer they are going to learn a range of skills and, and those skill are going to help them operate the quad bike safely.

Frank: Before you put your kids on the bike, make sure they've got helmets, safety and knowledge of riding the bike too. I mean a little machine is powerful.

Fiona: Investing in the right personal protective equipment for you child when they're operating a quad bike, is a very small investment to make when you compare that for the consequences of not wearing a helmet.

Jodie: In Domenic's case he was inexperienced. I assumed that he knew what he was doing. That he was able to, you know, operate the quad bike, but yeah, I was wrong.

Mario: Just to stop that one family from going through it is, is something we hope to achieve. We've been lucky. We know of other families that haven't been so lucky. And this is something that you know, we'll carry for the rest of our lives.

Domenic: I remember getting on it but I don't really remember taking off on it. When I woke up in ICU, I don't actually know what it all means. I don't remember that much in there. But I do remember I got to watch The Lorax.

[End of transcript]

RUN TIME: 10 mins 56 sec