Families of fallen officers killed in Eastern Freeway tragedy gather at fundraising relay run
When First Constable Charlotte Peak heard the news that four fellow police officers had died in a crash on the Eastern Freeway, she froze in shock.
The 24-year-old, who has been in the force for three years, found it hard to comprehend the enormity of the tragedy. But in the days following, she felt she needed to do something to remember them.
"It was really, really hard. It didn't feel right not doing anything."
She decided to raise money for the families of those who had died by running 159.485 kilometres — a number she arrived at after adding together the badge numbers of the four fallen officers.
The idea spread quickly as more and more officers jumped on board and on Sunday, after a final relay run in the autumn sun, First Constable Peak and dozens of others were able to present a cheque for $374,193.41 to Victoria Police Legacy.
The money will go to the families of Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor, Senior Constable Kevin King and constables Glen Humphris and Josh Prestney, who were killed on the side of the busy Melbourne freeway.
In emotional scenes at Melbourne's Police Memorial on Sunday afternoon, Senior Constable King's partner, Sharron Mackenzie, and three sons, Constable Prestney's parents, Andrew and Belinda, and Constable Humpris' partner, Todd Robinson, came together to remember their loved ones.
"It's an honour to have them here today," First Constable Peak told The Age. "I can't imagine how difficult this would be [for them]."
Police members started their relay run at 8am at the Police Academy in Glen Waverley, holding four bright blue batons engraved with the names of the four officers.
They then passed the police stations where the four members worked during their careers.
At 11.20am, they stopped by the side of the Eastern Freeway and a minute's silence was held opposite the spot where crash occurred.
"We created a platform for people who wanted to grieve and needed a way to channel their grief. And the community that has been created has been really heart-warming," said First Constable Peak.
"I didn't think what I did would be this big."
The chief executive officer of Victoria Police Legacy, Lex de Man, said he had never seen this much donated to the remembrance fund.
"It tells me the support from the public for the families, and the public want to say, 'we are with you', and also for what Victoria Police does in general," he said.
"[Today has] been emotional, very humbling to receive such an amount of money and for some of the families who have been able to come along, to see the appreciation on their faces."
Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said he was exceptionally proud of his members, who had naturally come together to support each other.
"[First Constable Peak] is in her 20s and it just goes to show that the measure of a police officer is not in their years of service, it's in the character," he said.
Mr Gatt said he was supportive of creating a permanent memorial at the site of the crash on the Eastern Freeway, given it was a loss of "such significant scale".
“It's touched Victoria in a way that would make having a memorial in the vicinity of that location not only special, but fitting."
Truck driver Mohinder Singh, 47, has been charged with culpable driving causing death over the crash and will face court again in October.