A mother who was killed in a fiery highway crash along with her four children claimed she was abandoned by her church when she needed it most, just weeks before her tragic death.
Charmaine Harris McLeod, 35, died instantly on Monday night when she was overtaking a truck on the Bunya Highway near Kumbia, Queensland.
Her children Aaleyn, 6, Matilda, 5, Wyatt, 4 and Zaidok, 2, also perished in the inferno three hours away from their home in Hervey Bay.
Ms McLeod attended Bayside Christian Church in Hervey Bay every Sunday for 17 years until she abruptly left, and then explained why in a Facebook post last month.
Charmaine Harris McLeod, 35, died in a horrific head-on highway crash along with her four children
Her daughters Matilda, 5, and Aaleyn, 6, died from the crash on Monday night along with their two little brothers
‘I feel as if, if you cant or don’t grasp God/healing etc, when they think you should have then you just get left behind,’ she wrote.
The single mother said she asked for support after her marriage broke down in early 2018 but got ‘very, very little’.
‘They were always too busy, not one piece of clothing or a piece of bread was offered, let alone shelter… I feel as if I’ve done it alone,’ she wrote.
‘These are the things Jesus did, he ate with the less fortunate. I’ve asked for prayer before surgery and yes I’ve had a lot of surgeries, but they don’t – they do for others though.’
In the hours after Ms McLeod’s death, friends accused the church of failing to help one of its members when she was ‘crying out for help’.
‘I hope your church reflects on this she is no longer here for you too help her or her children,’ one wrote.
A family picnic from 2017 with the four children and Ms McLeod’s husband James and sister Katie
‘We are all very sad and hurting with this tragic loss. Charmaine was a wonderful person with four incredible kids,’ the church wrote
However, the church insisted it did everything it could to help her and provided many hours of support whenever she needed it.
‘People were in contact with Charmaine right up until last week. Our door was always open to Charmaine whenever she needed help and she new that,’ it replied.
‘Unfortunately, peoples’ lives and situations aren’t always black and white. We were always reaching out to Charmaine and offering to help as much as she would allow us to.’
Bayside Church said Ms McLeod was a personal friend of many church members who spent time with her during the week to give support.
‘We organised professional counseling for her, which she was still regularly attending, we provided meals when needed, looked after her kids, prayed with her many times, visited her at home and the list goes on,’ it wrote.
Ms McLeod attended Bayside Christian Church (pictured) every Sunday for 17 years until she abruptly left and called it out in a Facebook review in April
The church set up a memorial for Ms McLeod and her children in the church and invited members to come in and pay their respects
‘We will miss them all dearly,’ the church wrote on its Facebook page
‘It’s easy to say we could have done more, but honestly we were there for Charmaine when she needed us.
‘We are all very sad and hurting with this tragic loss. Charmaine was a wonderful person with four incredible kids.’
Many of the tributes to Ms McLeod that flooded social media on Tuesday and Wednesday highlighted her strong faith.
‘Charmaine, you and your children brought so much joy and laughter to our Bayside church community, praying for your family in this difficult time,’ one wrote.
Ms McLeod also volunteered for charity Youth in Search, which helped at-risk youth – several of whom paid tribute to her after her death.
Her children (left to right) Wyatt, 4, Aaleyn, 6, Zaidok, 2, and Matilda, 5, also perished in the inferno three hours away from their home in Hervey Bay
The single mother said she asked for support after her marriage to Jason McLeod (pictured with their children) in early 2018 but got ‘very, very little’
She and her husband moved out of the family home in Howard, west of Hervey Bay, last May and she sold many possessions through Facebook in the months afterwards.
‘I’ve had no issues at all, only moving for family reasons,’ she wrote in a post advertising for someone to take over the lease.
Just a few days before the crash she was looking for painting classes in Hervey Bay and surrounds for her eldest daughter Ally.
Police believed the family was driving from the Bundaberg area, about 90 minutes north of Hervey Bay.
They were travelling south along the Bunya Highway, about three hours from home, but it was not known where they were headed.
Emergency workers described the crash as ‘catastrophic’ and one of the worst scenes they had ever been to.
Three of Ms McLeod’s children were unable to be rescued and died in the back seat of the family’s station wagon, and a fourth child was rushed to hospital but died on the way.
Ms McLeod, 35, died instantly on Monday night when she was overtaking a truck on the Bunya Highway near Kumbia, Queensland, along with her children
Heartbroken father James McLeod made a brief statement on Tuesday evening, as the town mourned their deaths.
‘I love them very much and they will be surely (sic) missed with all of my heart,’ he wrote.
‘They were beautiful souls and were loved by all who knew them.’
Friends offered their love and support to Mr McLeod on social media in the aftermath of the tragedy.
‘James McLeod I am here for you…sorry about your four angels,’ a friend wrote.
Friends and family flooded social media with their own tributes to the family, praising her selflessness in looking after her children.
‘I’ve never seen a single mum let alone of four give up so much for their kids,’ a friend wrote.
‘I can’t believe what I’ve woken up to this never should’ve f**king happened I’m in so much shock and pain, this is so f**ked life is so unfair’.
‘Those kids were something else I tell you and lived like princes and princesses for their short life they had but there was nothing materialistic to it they were just so happy and loved and their happiness came before anything.’
Ms McLeod was remembered as remembered as an ‘amazing’ woman whose ‘kids were her world’
‘I love them very much and they will be surely (sic) missed with all of my heart,’ Mr McLeod wrote
Another friend wrote: ‘You were always there for me when i need a friend and you always gave me the kick up the butt I needed. I miss you.’
‘You will always be in my heart’.
A neighbour, Gary Loweke, who used to mow the lawn for Ms McLeod said they were a friendly family and the kids were often on the street playing hopscotch or riding their bikes.
‘It’s a bloody disaster… those four kids waved at us every day as we went past,’ Mr Loweke said.
‘Charmaine was friendly, she was really nice… she was very good with the kids. If she wasn’t there, her sister would be there, but she was never far away from her family for long.
‘They’ll be greatly missed on the street, all the houses around there had young kids and they all used to play together.
‘The littlest fella, he used to just sit there and when he’d see you, he’d stand up where he was and give you the biggest wave. It’s hard not seeing that.’
‘Those kids were something else I tell you and lived like princes and princesses for their short life they had but there was nothing materialistic to it they were just so happy and loved and their happiness came before anything,’ a friend said
Emergency workers described the crash as ‘catastrophic’ and one of the worst scenes they had ever been to
Police said initial investigations showed Ms McLeod was overtaking a truck when she slammed head-on into an oncoming vehicle.
Emergency workers at the crash scene described what they were confronted with as ‘catastrophic’ and found it ‘extremely traumatic and upsetting’.
The truck Ms McLeod slammed into also caught fire but the driver, a 47-year-old man, escaped and was taken to hospital for his injuries.
He is understood to have burned his arms while heroically trying to free the family from the car as it was engulfed in flames.
Kawungan State School, in Hervey Bay, said its community was ‘deeply shocked and saddened’ by the death of the two eldest children.
‘They were both joyful and friendly children who will be greatly missed by all their friends and teachers,’ Principal Mark Jones said
‘Our thoughts and sincere sympathies go out to the family, caregivers, friends and loved ones during this difficult time.
‘Support is being provided to students and staff, and guidance counsellors will remain at the school to provide support in any way they can and for as long as it is needed.’
A policeman at the scene told Channel 9: ‘It’s certainly one of the worst accidents I’ve ever seen. It’s just a tragedy for everyone involved.’
Ambulance Service Assistant Commissioner Stephen Zsombok said paramedics were traumatised by the scene.
Shocked and heartbroken friends in her hometown of Hervey Bay, Queensland, sent tributes in the hours after the catastrophic accident
The woman, 35, was driving in South Burnett, Queensland at 7.20pm when she pulled out to overtake a truck. Pictured: The wreckage of the truck
The mother and three of her children, all aged under 10, were pronounced dead at the scene (pictured)
‘These are very seasoned officers and they’ve explained this as tragic, extremely traumatic with people obviously involved in the car that’s caught fire,’ he said.
‘Smoke, fire, our officers have gone though that dangerous scene to get to the child they were able to work on… Unfortunately that child died.
‘Our hearts go out to the family and friends of those people.’
Investigations are continuing and police are expected to remain on the scene for hours.
The crash happened 7km outside Kumbia on Bunya Highway, south of the turn off to the Bunya mountains, toward Dalby.
The crash happened 7km outside Kumbia on Bunya Highway, south of the turn off to the Bunya mountains, toward Dalby. Pictured: The scene