Senior Constable Mike Johnston does not want to photograph your dead body this weekend.
Johnston, who has attended more than 150 fatal crashes, is the duty forensic photographer for the Canterbury region over Easter.
With 15 deaths on Canterbury roads already this year – nearly half of last year’s toll – he is wary he may be called out to photograph another.
“I’m hoping I won’t be attending anything similar to what I’ve seen in the past.”
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Johnston is the longest serving forensic photographer in Canterbury. His job is to capture evidence at some of the most gruesome scenes imaginable.
“You know it’s not going to be very pleasant, you know that there’s going to be severe injuries and a lot of blood.”
Johnston does not have time for emotions when he is on the scene. His focus is solely on the technical aspects, such as lighting and the environment around him.
“Luckily, in a way, because we’ve got set things we need to actually achieve by being there, we’ve generally got a lot going on in our mind.
“It doesn’t soften it but it takes you to somewhere else other than just what you’re going to be dealing with.”
He describes his job as “confronting”, and says you can only deal with the impact as best you can.
Forensic photographers get counselling four times a year, which helps him offload and talk about what he has seen.
The job changed significantly for Johnston in January 2003, when he got a call about 2am from police communications to say his wife, who was on her way home from work, had been involved in a serious crash. She was unconscious and her prognosis was unclear.
“Some clown in a stolen car drove through a give way [sign] and took her out. She had to be cut from the vehicle.”
His wife suffered serious injuries and was hospitalised for about a month. Johnston said she still suffers from the head injuries.
When Johnston returned to work, he found the job a lot more real.
“I found the few I went to immediately after that very confronting. Every time you were remembering getting that call at 2 o’clock in the morning.
“But then in a way it gave me a valuable insight into what other families go through because I know what my family went through.”
Heading into the long weekend, Johnston just wants drivers to follow the road rules.
“The amount of fatal crashes I’ve been to where people have been killed and wouldn’t have been if they had a seatbelt on is phenomenal.
“It’s very frustrating when you go along there and you think, ‘You didn’t need to die and the other two people in the car didn’t because they have a seatbelt on, you’ve died purely because you didn’t have one on’.”