FOR two decades Desmond Headland Sr wondered what happened to the little girl he rescued from a car wreck in November 1998, until a chance meeting saw the pair reunited last week.
Mr Headland was travelling on Great Northern Highway with his brother-in-law 20 years ago, almost to the day, when he spotted an upside-down car on the side of the road.
It appeared to be the remains of an old accident, there were no emergency vehicles and other cars were passing by but Mr Headland knew something was wrong.
Trapped in the back seat was 10-year-old Rachael Mezzatesta.
Her parents had not survived the crash.
“I was brought up in the country, when accidents happen where I come from, they’re cleared away, and it didn’t look right,” Mr Headland said.
“I said, turn around let’s go and check it out.
“As we pulled up I heard her (Rachael) crying in the back.
“I ran down from the car, I saw her mum and dad in front, but I couldn’t get her out, I ran back to the car for a knife and cut her out of the seatbelt.”
Mr Headland checked Rachael for injuries and carried her to the adjacent farmhouse.
“I had my brother-in-law and nephew slowing traffic until police arrived,” he said.
“When they had everything under control I just jumped in my car and went.
“I always wondered what happened to her.”
Through the years Rachael always remembered the name Desmond Headland, but never thought to look for him until recently she noticed a familiar name through a client’s Facebook page.
The client turned out to be the wife of Mr Headland’s son, former Fremantle and Brisbane Lions star Des Headland.
“I messaged her and said, this might seem strange, but this happened to me 20 years ago, I always remember having this name in my mind,” Rachael said.
“I was confused at first because I thought it was her husband but she replied and said, ‘Rach it was my father-in-law, he’s going to be very happy to know you’re okay’.”
The pair were quickly reunited and shared a private reunion in Guildford last week.
“When I met him he started crying and said ‘I’ve always thought about you, and I drive past all the time and always thought about you’,” Rachael said.
Mr Headland continues to drive past the spot regularly and said he always thought of the little girl he pulled from the car.
“I pulled into the Bindoon pub a few years ago and I asked the guys about it and they told me you (Rachael) were living with your godparents, I wrote their name down and phone number,” Mr Headland said.
“I picked the phone up but I thought, no I didn’t want to put her through this again, go back and bring back those memories.
“But I should have.”
Rachael is now married, has her own business and two children.
The two share a special bond and said they will keep in contact from now on.
By Claire Ottaviano