Sale’s Callum ‘Cal’ Wood, 17, was killed in a car crash on May 21, leaving a hole in the hearts of many and becoming a grim warning to all about road safety.

Cal’s father Paul Wood endured the impossible task of burying his second-born son on Friday, as brothers Riley, Owen and Henry said their final goodbyes.

Cal Wood died May 21 on rural roads
17 year-old Cal Wood. Photo: Contributed

Heartbroken by the sudden loss of their boy, Mr Wood and his partner Maree Cramp are pleading for drivers to slow down and drive to the conditions, especially on rural Gippsland roads. Mr Wood described the majority of rural roads “in shocking disrepair”.

“It’s about the conditions; especially at night, conditions change all the time,” Mr Wood said.

“I don’t think enough is focused around safety with kids and cars.”

“They get their licence and think they’re invincible,” Ms Cramp said.

“But no one is,” Mr Wood exclaimed.

“They’re driving safe, they’re doing the right thing, but it’s foggy,” Ms Cramp continued.

“They don’t slow down, and things happen.

“It can be anything, rain, fog, sun in your eyes.

“You are not going to be uncool if you slow down five k’s (kilometres) cause your mate’s in the car, cause that is how you are going to get you and your mate home safely.”

Cal is one of 103 Victorians who have lost their lives on the state’s roads this year, with 63 in regional Victoria.

Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission currently records a 17 per cent increase in fatalities on rural roads, with 45 deaths in 2021.

Data from RACV reveals regional road deaths represent around 62 per cent of Australia’s road fatalities, with the Latrobe-Gippsland region accumulating the second-highest rural road death toll in 2020, according to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development.

On the night of Saturday, May 21, Cal was in the passenger seat of his mate’s car, travelling east along Heyfield-Dawson Road after the two had visited KFC in Traralgon.

At approximately 9pm, the vehicle left the road and collided with a tree. The driver remains in hospital with life-threatening injuries. Tragically Cal died at the scene.

On the night of Cal’s accident, a thick fog blanketed the Gippsland region. Fog is a cloud that touches the ground, forming when water vapour condenses. Fog such as this reduces visibility, creating dangerous driving conditions.

The lowered contrast caused by the fog distorts the perception of speed. It causes difficulties distinguishing between a stationary object and a moving one and often causes people to misjudge distance.

The unusual weather condition significantly contributes to motor vehicle accidents across the country and highlights the importance of driving to the conditions.

Mr Wood and his family are pleading for the Gippsland community to drive to the conditions and learn from Cal’s death that the result of not doing so may very well cost more than an insurance claim.

The Wellington Shire road death toll is now three, with the death of a Bairnsdale man in his 20s on January 3 and a Willung South man in his 40s on March 19.

RACV estimates that 80 per cent of Victoria’s regional roads need upgrading, with the increasing number of deaths emphasising the poor conditions of rural Victorian roads.

Victorian Police continue to investigate the accident on Heyfield-Dawson Road.

Cal Wood
Cal Wood. Photo supplied.

The Gippsland Times approached Wellington Shire Council for comment regarding regional road conditions.

“Wellington Shire Council extends its sincerest condolences to Cal Wood’s family and friends during this very sad time,” a council spokesperson said.

“It would be inappropriate to make any public comment until the investigation is complete.”

Upon returning from visiting the crash site, Cal’s older brother Riley disclosed details of the Heyfield-Dawson Road to his father.

“Even though it’s a bitumen road, it’s thin and single-laned,” Mr Wood said.

“From what Riley told me, trees are hard up against the road, naturally as it’s in the bush. There are drop-offs on the side of the road, and there are massive bumps where the railroad crossings are.”

Just 12 weeks ago, not even 30km from the location of Cal’s crash, a 42-year-old Toongabbie man was driving along Glengarry West Road when he ran off the road and collided with a tree. The man died at the scene.

Mr Wood is among the thousands of Victorians outraged by the conditions of rural roads.

“Road maintenance is awful,” he said.

“If it’s not a highway, every other road around this district is no good.

“I travel 15k’s for work every day on a road that’s as dangerous as buggery. The number of holes, the road’s shape, and the large trees right up against the road’s edge.

“If they do fix the holes, all they do is drive along and just throw a bit of bitumen in the hole.

“They don’t actually fix the road itself. So the roads are shocking; they really are.”

Shadow Minister for Roads Steph Ryan has criticised the dangerous neglect of roads under Labor, including the axing of crucial funds for councils to maintain local roads.

In 2020 road asset maintenance funding was cut by 25 per cent, totalling a total cut of $191 million.

In late April, Ms Ryan told Gippsland media that the underinvestment in rural road maintenance has life-threatening consequences, which is blatantly apparent to anyone driving on the state’s roads.

Earlier this year, following the Parliament of Victoria’s inquiry into the road toll, it was revealed that there is no legislative obligation for roads to be built or maintained to a certain standard to increase safety for road users.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester strongly supports further investments into the local road network saying, “every loss of life and serious injury on our roads is a tragedy for the families and friends affected.”

“Across Gippsland our roads have deteriorated badly in recent months, and I don’t know if it’s because of the prolonged wet period or lack of maintenance funding.”

Despite being unable to comment specifically on Cal Wood’s fatal crash, Mr Chester said, “all the road safety research supports a ‘safe system’ approach to reducing road trauma.”

“That means safer roads, safer drivers, safer vehicles and safer speeds. Governments at all levels need to be working together to deliver better and safer roads because they can prevent more families suffering the consequences of road trauma,” Mr Chester said.

“It is heartbreaking to see young lives taken in car crashes and my thoughts are with the families involved.”

Not yet six months into 2022, the death toll on regional Victorian roads is 18 more than the total deaths in 2021; it is time for action.

The conditions of rural Victorian roads are amongst the worst in the country, and without change, more fathers like Paul Wood will lose their sons.

More men like Riley Wood will lose their younger brother.

More boys like Owen and Henry Wood will lose their big brothers.

Cal Wood with baby brother Henry
Cal and his baby brother Henry. Photo: Contributed

“I don’t know what else I can do but try and change the road conditions and make these kids aware of being safe when driving,” Mr Wood said.

As a young adult, getting your licence opens the door to a whole new level of freedom that comes with an added responsibility.

Mr Wood and Ms Cramp implore young people to avoid going for a drive for the sake of driving.

“Kids at that age do want to drive; they want to be with their mates,” Mr Wood said.

“I don’t know how many times I asked Callum to stay home, but social life is big at that age, and they gotta do it; we all did.”

“But don’t just go driving for the sake of driving, especially late at night on those sorts of roads.”

For Mr Wood and Ms Cramp, losing Cal has rendered indescribable pain, but they are overwhelmed by the amount of support the Sale and surrounding community have shown during this horrific time.

Nothing will reverse the shattering of the Wood family’s hearts caused by Cal’s shock death.

One of Cal’s many uncles, Jamie Dorning, said losing Cal is inconceivable.

“We only just started to move on after losing Cal’s mum Christie in 2019,” Mr Dorning said.

“Best friends isn’t nearly a strong enough way to describe Cal’s relationship with his mum.

“The only thing I can see in all of this, the only thing to hold on to, is now they are together. Reunited again.”

While there is nothing in this world that can turn back the clock and change events to have Cal Wood walk through their front door, Mr Wood and Ms Cramp hope that the community and those in charge of the roads will implement change to stop tragedies like Cal’s accident from happening again.

“It happens in every generation, the next lot of drivers will come through, and there will be one of the young ones who loses their life,” Ms Cramp said.

“It happens all the time, but if we can slow that down so that the time Henry (Cal’s seven-month old brother) is driving, he is not losing a mate.”

As police continue investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash in Heyfield, they ask anyone who knows anything about the vehicle’s movements or occupants leading up to the collision to contact Heyfield Police on 5148 2202 or Crime Stoppers Victoria on 1800 333 000.

Brothers Riley, 19, and Owen, 14, have faced more tragedy than many could even begin to comprehend. Some of Cal’s family members have set up a Go Fund Me page in support of the two boys.

If you would like to contribute, you can do so by visiting