Sophie Joy Martin Delezio (born 3 April 2001) is an Australian schoolgirl who gained media attention when she was involved in an accident at the Roundhouse Childcare Centre in Fairlight, Sydney, Australia. She suffered third-degree burns to 85% of her body and was hospitalised for several weeks where she lost both her legs. Delezio is the first daughter of Ron Delezio and Carolyn Martin and the younger sister of Mitchell Delezio and half sister of Catherine Delezio and John Delezio. Her family has since then become major fundraisers and activists for victims who suffered conditions as Sophie's, and have also assisted in fundraising for the Children's Hospital at Westmead in Westmead.
Delezio first came to the attention of the public on 15 December 2003 when she and Molly Wood, both two years old at the time, were badly injured when they were trapped under a burning car which had crashed through a gate into the Roundhouse Childcare Centre in Fairlight, Sydney, Australia. She suffered burns to 85% of her body and lost both feet, one hand, and her right ear. Wood suffered burns to 40% of her body, but has since made a good recovery. Delezio was released from Westmead Children's Hospital on Monday 21 June 2004. The circumstances of the accident, and the rescue of the children by passers by and members of the emergency services (for which a number received bravery awards) made them the subject of national news coverage.
The driver who crashed into the child care centre, Donald John McNeall, was 68 at the time of the accident. He was cleared of negligent driving before a magistrate's court after medical experts agreed he had had a seizure.
In late 2004, Delezio's parents founded the Day of Difference Foundation, a charity dedicated to raising funds for research into pediatric burns and related diseases. As of 2009, the foundation has raised over $6.5 million.
Due to the driver not being found liable, nobody was responsible for Delezio's extensive medical costs. However, the driver's compulsory third party insurance provider, the National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA), covered the costs ex-gratia. Due to this loophole in insurance coverage the NSW government introduced the Children's Special Benefit for children under 16 where no insurance coverage is available and later introduced a similar scheme to cover third parties of any age injured in an accident where nobody is liable called "Blameless Accidents".
On 5 May 2006, Delezio made national headlines a second time when she was again badly injured in a road accident. While being pushed across a crossing by her nanny in a wheelchair (her service dog Tara by her side) near her home in Sydney's northern beaches, she was hit by a car and thrown 18 metres. Delezio suffered a heart attack, a broken jaw, a broken shoulder, bruising to her head, numerous rib fractures and a tear to her left lung. She was treated at the Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick. She left hospital and returned home to continue her recovery on 7 June 2006.
An 80-year-old man, John George Sharman, was charged in relation to the second accident with "dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm and not giving way to a pedestrian on a crossing". Having pleaded guilty Sharman was in October 2006 placed on a good behaviour bond for 18 months and suspended from driving for a year.
Delezio's father maintained that while accidents do happen, reconstruction of the pedestrian crossing in question must be commenced, due to the number of incidents occurring.
Life after the accidents
Delezio returned to classes at Balgowlah Heights Public School on Thursday, 20 July 2006.
As of 2016, Delezio is in Year 10 at Oxford Falls Grammar School, having previously attended Queenwood School For Girls. Her sporting interest is now rowing and she is focused on representing at the 2020 Paralympics in that sport.
As a result of Delezio's accident, over $14 million had been raised by the foundation the Delezio family had set up, along with heightened public awareness for the need for adequate support and services for pediatric burns patients. Some of these funds were raised at the Kids 4 Kids Benefit Concert held on 10 September 2006. The Government of New South Wales has announced that it is investigating the possibility of reducing the age for mandatory medical checks for drivers from 80 to 75 years of age. It has agreed to install traffic lights at the crossing where the accident occurred.
Periodically Delezio and the two accidents are referenced in the media particularly when concerns are raised about road safety in the vicinity of educational institutions.
- "Sympathy for Sophie Delezio's sister Catherine". The Daily Telegraph. News Limited. 20 June 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
CATHERINE Delezio's troubled life came screaming back at her in a Sydney court yesterday - sexual abuse, life as a street kid, estrangement from her dad Ron, her sister Sophie's two horrific accidents.
- "Meet Molly Wood - the raw strength of a child's bravery". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 February 2011.
- "New South Wales Fire Brigades Bravery Awards Presentation". Legislative Council Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. 27 October 2004. Retrieved 4 February 2007.
- Petersen, Freya (4 June 2004). "Super Sophie - any tougher, and she'd rust". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 February 2007.
- Norrie, Justin (6 May 2006). "A second blow too cruel to contemplate". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 February 2007.
- "Day Of Difference Foundation". Day Of Difference Foundation. 2006. Retrieved 4 February 2007.
- Swanson, Carolyn (4 April 2009). "Love conquers all". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
- "The World Today - Case reveals third party insurance loophole". Abc.net.au. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
-  Archived 19 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
-  Archived 20 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
- "We're very fortunate: battler Sophie's parents". The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 May 2006. Retrieved 4 February 2007.
- [dead link]
- "Sophie Delezio driver case adjourned". The Age. 16 August 2006. Retrieved 4 February 2007.
-  Archived 3 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
- Gadd, Michael (15 July 2006). "Mother of all courting disasters". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
- "Sophie Delezio returns to school". The Age. 20 July 2006. Retrieved 4 February 2007.
- "Sophie Delezio: My Paralympian Dream". New Idea. 27 June 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- "'Good can come out of bad'". dailytelegraph.com.au.
- Fife-Yeomans, Janet. "Childcare centre danger: Heavy traffic remains free to rush past nearby children". Daily Telegraph. Nationwide News Ltd. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
“They don’t look after the safety of the children. It’s a big issue and we are going to have more Sophie Delezios. She deserves more than that.”
- Collings, Sally (2007). Sophie's Journey (1 ed.). HarperCollins Publishers Australia. ISBN 978-0-7322-8552-4.
- Day of Difference Foundation
- Site established by Sophie's parents for wellwishers' messages
- Out of the Wreckage - transcript and audio of interview of Sophie's parents on the Spirit of Things on ABC Radio National (April 2009)