The father of a woman killed when her BMW was sliced in three in a horror crash has taken aim at the hospital his daughter was supposed to be in the care of at the time.
Paige Dent, 25, died when her car crashed into a pole on the Nepean Highway in Cheltenham, south-east Melbourne, about 5.30am on Saturday.
The day beforehand she reportedly ran away twice from Dandenong Hospital, the first time from a secure psychiatric ward and the second from the emergency department.
Her father, Michael Dent, said he believed the system had let his daughter down because the hospital allegedly knew of her tendency to escape from care.
‘Over five years it has happened about 20 times. I would ask questions about why she was able to escape like this and the hospital said security has a hands-off policy,’ Mr Dent told The Age.
‘They had a duty of care, if they had been doing their job this wouldn’t have happened, this girl would still be alive. You can’t just walk out of a jail but she was able to do that here.’
After her first escape on Friday, it was believed Ms Dent travelled to her father’s home in Hampton Park before police arrived to take her back to hospital.
‘The police came to our house on Friday and knocked on the door and asked if Paige was here. She was bawling her eyes out, I could see the despair in her eyes… because she didn’t want to go back to the hospital.’
Ms Dent had escaped from the emergency ward just 20 minutes after arriving back at hospital, and within a matter of hours was dead.
Her mother, Robyne Foster, who is terminally ill, also thought the hospital system was lacking in its ability to cope with patients like her daughter.
She described Ms Dent as ‘beautiful’ and harmless to everyone except herself, and said she was ‘too vulnerable to be in the community’.
For five years Ms Foster was forced to watch as her daughter took a downward spiral with her mental health after initially being admitted for drug-induced psychosis.
Jess Anderson from the Health and Community Services Union said patients found creative ways to break out of hospitals like with cleaners, relatives or over fences.
Ms Anderson said the result was too often devastating news of death or injury and hospitals being too short-staffed were to blame.
She added most inpatients fled hospital to return home to their family, while a minority left to harm themselves or take their own life.
Devastated family and friends have paid tribute to the 25-year-old, who was the only person in the vehicle and died at the scene.
‘She was always such a bubbly person, she was very bright and was always on the ball,’ Mr Dent said.
‘She was such a funny girl, we used to have lots of fun and lots of laughs, she was just so full of potential,’ adding that she ‘just had this wicked sense of humour’.
Her step-sister, Shannon Burnell, told the publication Ms Dent’s death had ‘been traumatic for everyone’.
Debris from the car was scattered across the highway close to Southland Shopping Centre, near the intersection of Bay Road.
‘It’s an incredible scene and I’ve been in the police force for 30 years,’ Senior Sergeant Warren Francis-Pester told Nine News.
‘I’ve never seen debris spread over six lanes of highway.’
Authorities were yet to determine how the accident unfolded but police believed speeding, drugs and alcohol were factors.
Both directions of the Nepean Highway were closed for several hours as police investigated the accident.