Elle Underhill, 4, and her sister Elaina, 2, were involved in a tragic car accident in 2015 that claimed Elle’s life. Picture: A Current Affair
Elle Underhill, 4, and her sister Elaina, 2, were involved in a tragic car accident in 2015 that claimed Elle’s life. Picture: A Current Affair

Devastating mix-up every parent fears

Elle Underhill and her little sister Elaina were travelling in a car with their babysitter when her car smashed into an oncoming vehicle, ripping their Mazda in two.

It claimed the life of four-year-old Elle and left two-year-old Elaina fighting for her life - but that's not what the parents of the little girls were originally told.

Michelle and Steve Underhill were nearby at their home in Casino in northern New South Wales when they heard sirens blaring after babysitter Courtney Matthews decided to travel 30km away into town.

Elle Underhill, 4, and her sister Elaina, 2, were involved in a horrible car accident in 2015. Picture: A Current Affair
Elle Underhill, 4, and her sister Elaina, 2, were involved in a horrible car accident in 2015. Picture: A Current Affair

 

The girls’ babysitter had smashed into an oncoming car, causing their car to split in two. The tragic accident claimed Elle’s life.
The girls’ babysitter had smashed into an oncoming car, causing their car to split in two. The tragic accident claimed Elle’s life.

Mr Underhill, who works as a police officer, said he had an immediate feeling something was wrong at the time of the horrific accident back in 2015.

"Thinking to myself, that's not good. Knowing full well what screaming sirens usually mean," he told A Current Affair.

"Call it a mother's instinct - I just had a horrible, gut-wrenching feeling it was the girls,' Mrs Underhill said.

After seeing on social media there was crash involving a red Mazda, the pair rushed to the scene, which was where they found the horrible wreckage.

"I just remember the shards of glass piercing my feet as I just ran, ran to the middle. I sat down in front of half a car," Mrs Underhill said.

The couple had no idea the babysitter, who was just 18 at the time, was taking the girls out, and by the time they got to the crash scene, Elle and Elaina had already been rushed to hospital.

Michelle and Steve Underhill rushed to the scene when they heard sirens near their house. Picture: A Current Affair
Michelle and Steve Underhill rushed to the scene when they heard sirens near their house. Picture: A Current Affair

A colleague of Mr Underhill had told him his daughter had died, but in a shocking mix-up, officers at the scene had got the little girls confused, and the parents were told their youngest, Elaina, was killed.

When Mr and Mrs Underhill arrived at the hospital to identify their daughter's body, they were horrified to find their eldest daughter, Elle, in the morgue.

"It was at that point I thought both girls were dead," Mr Underhill told A Current Affair.

While Elle had died, her younger sister was fighting for her life as she was flown to the children's hospital in Brisbane.

The tragic accident rocked the local community who launched a GoFundMe account at the time, raising more than $32,000 for the Underhill family in just two days.

"Such a beautiful girl and friend to our daughter, you will be greatly missed," one person said on the page.

"Our hearts go out to you for your loss of beautiful Elle and our prayers will be sent for her sister," another said.

Courtney Matthews, who had her driver’s licence suspended, was charged with dangerous driving occasioning death and dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Courtney Matthews, who had her driver’s licence suspended, was charged with dangerous driving occasioning death and dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm. Picture: Nathan Edwards

The car's driver and the girls' babysitter, Courtney Matthews, was taken to Lismore Base Hospital suffering minor injuries.

She had her driver's licence suspended and was charged with dangerous driving occasioning death and dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.

But due to a lack of evidence, those charges were dropped.

At the time, a family friend said Ms Matthews was receiving support as she struggled to come to terms with the accident.

She has since pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of negligent driving occasioning death and actual bodily harm.

The 18-year-old was travelling west when her car collided with a white Subaru Liberty about 1.20pm on a Friday - just days before Christmas.

Retired chemist John White, 81, who was driving the Subaru, was taken to Lismore Base Hospital having suffered a fractured sternum in the collision.

The accident occurred near Casino in northern New South Wales in December 2015. Picture: A Current Affair
The accident occurred near Casino in northern New South Wales in December 2015. Picture: A Current Affair

 

Courtney Matthews’ car after the accident. Picture: A Current Affair
Courtney Matthews’ car after the accident. Picture: A Current Affair

 

John White, the driver of the other car involved in the crash, suffered a fractured sternum in the collision. Picture: A Current Affair
John White, the driver of the other car involved in the crash, suffered a fractured sternum in the collision. Picture: A Current Affair

According to A Current Affair, Matthews has never contacted or apologised to the Underhill family despite being close with them before the devastating crash.

The family is desperate to know what caused the teenage babysitter to lose control of the car that day - but they're also aware they may never get answers.

"I don't know what is adequate. For me, I just wanted her to say what happened and to just come to us, and we're never going to get that," Ms Underhill said.

The accident was so devastating, then NSW premier Mike Baird made a special visit to the Casino police station to offer his support to local officers who attended the crash site.

Matthews will be sentenced today.


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