Claire McKenzie: How Ballandean, Queensland tractor victim survived after two legs, arm severed

A wedding fashion designer who lost both of her legs and an arm in a horrific lawn mowing incident managed to save her own life by battling through the agony and calling 000.

Claire McKenzie, 61, had bought a tractor and slasher to keep her 50 hectare property in Ballandean, in Queensland’s Granite Belt region, safe during bushfire season.

Ms McKenzie, a mother who neighbours describe as a ‘quiet lady with a love of nature’, was alone on her property just before midday on Thursday when she was thrown from her tractor and the slasher ran her over.

Despite suffering the terrible injuries and bleeding profusely, Ms McKenzie remained conscious and was able to call emergency services for help – with the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) scrambling a rescue helicopter and police rushing from nearby Stanthorpe.

Bridal fashion designer Claire McKenzie (left) was mowing her 50 hectare property in the history wine industry town of Ballandean, 240km north of Brisbane, when she was thrown from her tractor and the slasher severed three of her limbs

The 61-year-old was mowing ahead of the bushfire season three years after fires engulfed the tiny town forcing evacuation, but was catastrophically injured when her slasher fell on one both her legs and one arm

The 61-year-old was mowing ahead of the bushfire season three years after fires engulfed the tiny town forcing evacuation, but was catastrophically injured when her slasher fell on one both her legs and one arm

She was airlifted from the scene and delivered by helicopter to the roof of Brisbane’s major trauma centre, Princess Alexandra Hospital.

QAS spokesperson Stephen Johns later said Ms McKenzie’s ‘had life-threatening injuries’ and ‘I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this.

‘She received significant multiple trauma to her limbs, but was conscious and able to talk to paramedics, who were able to stabilise the lady,’ he said.

‘It’s just a miracle she had enough sense to be able to get onto that phone really quickly and get that help to her. Otherwise it would be an absolute tragedy here today.

A resident of Ballandean said the small community was shocked by the news of Ms McKenzie’s injuries.

‘She keeps to herself, she’s a very quiet person,’ an 83-year-old neighbour said.

‘She was farming, she has gardens, she’s a lover of nature.

‘She had bought a tractor and a slasher to try and keep her property fire resistant and was just mowing the grass when it happened.’

Two police officers at the scene where bridal designer Claire McKenzie suffered catastrophic injuries when she fell off her tractor and teh slasher ran over her, severing both her legs and one  arm

Two police officers at the scene where bridal designer Claire McKenzie suffered catastrophic injuries when she fell off her tractor and teh slasher ran over her, severing both her legs and one  arm

Claire McKenzie's terrible injuries were described as a workplace accident, but Ballandean neighbours said the quiet 61-year-old was merely mowing to reduce bushfire risk on her property

Claire McKenzie’s terrible injuries were described as a workplace accident, but Ballandean neighbours said the quiet 61-year-old was merely mowing to reduce bushfire risk on her property

Ms McKenzie had bought the tractor and slasher (above) to clear her 50ha property of undergrowth ahead of the bushfire season and three years after flames threatened the tiny town of Ballandean

Ms McKenzie had bought the tractor and slasher (above) to clear her 50ha property of undergrowth ahead of the bushfire season and three years after flames threatened the tiny town of Ballandean

The town, which lies on the NSW border south of Stanthorpe was evacuated in 2019 when bushfires threatened to engulf the tiny community after burning through about 2000 hectares of surrounding land.

Ballandean has fewer than 200 residents and is the site of several vineyards in the Southern Downs region including Ballandean Estate Wines – the state’s oldest family-owned winery founded by Angelo Puglisi, who is considered the ‘father of the Queensland wine industry’.

The quiet-natured fashion enthusiast had moved to the tiny town 240km south-west of Brisbane in 2016 after working for three decades making couture and bridal outfits and had started up her Wedding Desire business via online handmade and craft site Etsy.

According to her Etsy and Linkedin profiles, Ms McKenzie makes wedding dresses, bridal jewellery, candles and other items, loves vintage style and sells ‘to all parts of Australia, Spain, the US and the UK’.

Claire McKenzie operated fashion and couture business in Victoria and Brisbane before purchasing her house (above) on a 50 hectare property in historic Ballandean, home of Queensland's founding wine industry

Claire McKenzie operated fashion and couture business in Victoria and Brisbane before purchasing her house (above) on a 50 hectare property in historic Ballandean, home of Queensland’s founding wine industry

Fashion designer Claire McKenzie was airlifted from the scene and delivered by helicopter to the roof of Brisbane's major trauma centre, Princess Alexandra Hospital

Fashion designer Claire McKenzie was airlifted from the scene and delivered by helicopter to the roof of Brisbane’s major trauma centre, Princess Alexandra Hospital

In her online business websites, Ms McKenzie is described as ‘a coffee lover and fashion enthusiast … a lover of style, creativity and vintage – with over 30 years’ experience in the bridal industry’.

In an interview with Polkadotwedding.com in 2013, Ms McKenzie said she found inspiration by ‘searching worldwide for ideas.

‘There is an endless stream of ideas available online, and mixing this with my passion for rustic/vintage weddings, at this point, there is no end in sight.’

She said her online business to making and selling handmade items was ‘inspired by my son’s country wedding, set for 2014.

‘(I) decided to open my Etsy store with just a few items…then it just grew, many ideas started flowing into my head and in my spare time I would create them.’

As Ms McKenzie recovers in Princess Alexandra’s Intensive Care Unit, Workplace Health and Safety officers are investigating the incident.




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