Record of Investigation into Death (Without Inquest)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
9 May 2011
I, Glenn Hay, Coroner, having investigated the death of
Joffre George Davies
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
(a) Joffre George Davies (Mr Davies) died on 14 May 2010 at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) at Hobart in Tasmania, aged 72 years.
(b) Mr Davies was born in Australia on 6 August 1937. He was retired, unmarried and had no children.
(c) Mr Davies died as a result of multiple blunt injuries sustained when as a pedestrian; he was struck by a car.
(d) There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.
Mr Davies lived on his own at 207 Marion Bay Road at Bream Creek. He had previously been a carer for his mother prior to her death.
Mr Davies had a past medical history of hypertension, diabetes mellitus and obstructive sleep apnoea. According to Mr Davies neighbour, Arthur Hibberd, Mr Davies had decreased mobility which appeared to worsen leading up to his death. In his local community he usually used a mobility scooter when in public.
There is no medical evidence to suggest that Mr Davies had impaired or decreased eyesight.
Circumstances surrounding death:
Experienced officers of Tasmania Police (Accident Investigation Branch) fully investigated the circumstances surrounding the crash and have provided a comprehensive report to me including the sworn evidence of relevant witnesses.
At 1.30pm on Friday 14 May 2010, Alistair Churchman (Mr Churchman) was driving his red Volkswagen sedan, in a southerly direction on Brooker Avenue at Derwent Park. He was travelling in the right lane of the two-lane highway. Approximately 200 metres from the accident scene, the highway changes from two lanes to three and at about that point Mr Churchman moved into the right of the three lanes. At that point there were motor vehicles in the left and middle lanes alongside or slightly in front of Mr Churchman’s vehicle.
At this time, Mr Davies was attempting to walk across Brooker Avenue from east to west adjacent to the Bunning’s Store. A number of south bound cars approached Mr Davies, including the vehicle being driven by Mr Churchman.
Mr Davies walked into the path of the Volkswagen. Mr Churchman failed to observe Mr Davies in time and braked heavily upon impact. His Volkswagen struck Mr Davies.
Mr Davies was taken to the RHH by ambulance. Mr Davies was pronounced deceased shortly after his admission to the hospital.
A post mortem examination was undertaken by Forensic Pathologist, Doctor Donald Ritchey and in his opinion the cause of Mr Davies death was the multiple blunt injuries sustained when as a pedestrian, he was struck by a car.
From the detailed investigation it is probable that none of excessive speed, road conditions, lighting, alcohol or drugs, or the mechanical or other condition of the Volkswagen were contributing factors to this crash.
From all the available evidence Mr Churchman was travelling at, or below the permissible speed limit of 80 km/h.
The roadway at the time of the crash was dry and the weather was fine. The roadway is in an area of complex traffic flow with a high proportion of south-bound traffic moving from the middle lane to the right lane and for a pedestrian standing on the eastern side of the highway the right lane may appear clear before commencing to walk, but may well become less than clear the further they walked.
There were tyre skid marks on the roadway left by Mr Churchman’s vehicle where he applied his brakes to stop his vehicle. The were no marks left at the scene to indicate the point of impact. I find that Mr Churchman did not observe Mr Davies prior to impact and there was no application of brakes until after impact.
An inspection of the Volkswagen being driven by Mr Churchman was conducted by Transport Inspector, Noel Clark (Mr Clark). He determined that Mr Churchman’s vehicle was in an unroadworthy condition prior to the crash due to a number of minor defects and while Mr Clark could not draw any conclusion as to whether those defects directly contributed to the crash, I find that in all the circumstances it is highly unlikely they could have or would have done so.
Mr Davies vehicle was located in a parking bay on the eastern side of Brooker Avenue opposite Bunning’s complex at Derwent Park. He had a light globe and a receipt from Derwent Park Bunning’s store. The receipt was in Mr Davies name. It is highly probable that Mr Davies was attempting to walk across the road to the Bunning’s store. One witness travelling north just prior to the crash observed Mr Davies walking across the south-bound lanes and in the vicinity of the right lane he suddenly stopped to bend as if to retrieve something he had dropped.
I find from all of the available evidence that Mr Churchman would have had insufficient sight of and reaction time to stop his vehicle prior to hitting Mr Davies. The crest of the hill on Brooker Avenue to Mr Davies right would have restricted his visibility of approaching vehicles to approximately 240 metres. Mr Churchman’s visibility of Mr Davies would have been further decreased due to a larger black Nissan X-Trail travelling in the same direction in the lane immediately to his left and slightly ahead and a further vehicle in the left lane.
Witness evidence suggests that Mr Davies’ mobility was less than that of an average person. He was observed to walk in "a slow shuffling" way across the highway. I find that given Mr Davies was walking at a slow speed and that with a motor vehicle approaching from the crest of the hill to his right, then even if the highway had been clear when he commenced to walk, he would not have had time to cross without impeding motor vehicles.
As a group, elderly pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to being struck by vehicles for a number of reasons. These include physical impairments, failure to perceive danger, as well as over confidence in both their abilities and those of the driver. Often a pedestrian may simply assume that the driver will see them and have sufficient time to stop.
It is more likely than not that Mr Churchman’s view of Mr Davies was obscured at all relevant times at least until a point where nothing could have been done to avoid the crash and there is nothing to suggest the manner of Mr Churchman’s driving contributed to Mr Davies unfortunate death.
I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family of Mr Davies.
DATED: Monday 9 May 2011 at Hobart in Tasmania.