’He’s dead isn’t he?’: Wife’s heartbreaking phone call
TURNING 60 years old was a looming milestone John Van Stelten refused to accept, swearing "black and blue" to his Townsville family that the years were flying by too quickly.
His wife, Sabina Van Stelten, said her adoring husband would be smiling down today, knowing he would be forever 59 years old despite a tragic turn of events that stripped him from that fateful birthday celebration.
The Townsville businessman was killed alongside his friend Mark Dunstan, 57, in a horrific crash yesterday, leaving behind a family who were trying to come to terms with their deaths.
Mrs Van Stelten, who was shell-shocked when she spoke with the Bulletin today, said she knew her husband had been killed before police called her with the tragic news.
She had been following his GPS location on her mobile phone as he and Mr Dunstan, along with her stepson Johannes and worker Gordon, were driving back from Melbourne.
The map showed their van had stopped right where she knew a fatal crash had occurred near Mackay, and she knew something bad had happened.
She called their mobiles but they were disconnected.
"My husband is dead isn't he?" she asked police when they finally called to deliver the news that would leave her heartbroken.
Mrs Van Stelten spoke to her husband just three hours before a truck collided with his work van on the Bruce Highway about 4am.
Queensland Police say the van and truck were both travelling north when the van attempted a U-turn and was hit by the B-double.
Mr Van Stelten and Mr Dunstan were killed instantly. Her stepson and their worker were seriously injured and remain in hospital.
"We still don't really believe it. I'm just expecting him to come down the driveway any second," she said.
The Alice River couple lived with Mr Dunstan, who is Mrs Van Stelten's ex-husband, and some of their children.
The family was tight and worked hard to run Mr Van Stelten's business, Blue Ribbon Home Services.
It was on their third day of driving home from a charity event at Melbourne that the crash occurred.
Among the tragedy, their business diary is still full and Mrs Van Stelten is being supported by close friends to keep it running.
Mr Van Stelten had been in the home services business for more than 20 years and was a well-known face among the Townsville community.
She said Mr Dunstan had formed a close friendship with her husband and that he was an adoring dad to their son, Nathaniel.
"I'm just running on adrenaline," she said.
"He taught me how to ride motorbikes and I taught him how to ride horses."
Mr Van Stelten, a grandfather to seven adoring grandchildren, had endured his fair share of hardships and had recently "come to peace" with the death of his daughter six years ago.
"We were talking about retirement and what we want to do for the rest of our lives … he was my soulmate," she said.
Townsville's tragic 2019 floods had also claimed a beloved boarding house at Hermit Park the pair ran for parolees.
"Every one of those men he gave a second chance. He got them jobs and believed in them," Mrs Van Stelten said.
"He was just one of those genuinely good people that would do anything for anybody."
Johannes remains at Mackay Base Hospital in the intensive care unit.
Mrs Van Stelten said he had lost a kidney, had several broken bones and some internal bleeding.
The 32-year-old Gympie man, known as Gordon, remains at Townsville University Hospital in a critical condition.