Record of Investigation Into Death
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Regulations 1996
These findings have been de-identified by direction of the Coroner pursuant to S.57(c) of Coroners Act 1995
I, Stephen Raymond Carey, Coroner, having investigated the death of
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
(a) “The deceased” died on 3 February 2011 at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
(b) “The deceased” was born in New Zealand and was aged 20 years at the time of his death.
(c) “The deceased” was unmarried and employed as an Apprentice Butcher at the time of his death.
(d) I find that the deceased died as a result of multiple blunt trauma injuries following a motorcycle crash on the East Derwent Highway, Otago Bay.
Circumstances Surrounding the Death :
“The deceased” was the holder of a novice L1 licence for both a motorcycle and a car. He had been disqualified in February 2009 for driving without an accompanying person and then in March 2009 for driving with alcohol in his body. His novice L1 licence was current at the time of the crash.
Just prior to Christmas 2010 “the deceased” was involved in a minor single vehicle accident whilst riding his motorcycle. This occurred at the roundabout near the showgrounds in Glenorchy when he lost control in wet conditions and fell resulting in soft tissue injuries. His motorcycle was damaged and not repairable.
In January 2011 “the deceased” purchased a Yamaha FZR750R motorcycle. The motorcycle was unregistered at the time of the crash and had been so since 3 July 2010. “The deceased” was not permitted by virtue of his novice L1 licence to ride a motorcycle with a 750cc engine.
On the evening of Saturday 12 February 2011 “the deceased” stayed with his mother, Mrs S at her residence in Southern Tasmania. They shared a can of Jim Beam and Coke and “the deceased” went to bed at approximately 11.30pm. “The deceased” left home the following morning at approximately 10.00am intending to visit his girlfriend in Dromedary. He was wearing “bike boots and jacket”.
Mrs S advises that “the deceased” made no complaints in respect of how the bike handled. She described that “the deceased” girlfriend resided in Dromedary and he would travel regularly to visit her by way of the Bridgewater Bridge. He also had a friend who lived at Pontville and he would use the Bridgewater Bridge to visit him. In her opinion, “the deceased” was not familiar with the East Derwent Highway.
The road where the crash occurred is bitumen and has a general north/south orientation. It has unsealed gravel edges. There are two lanes for vehicles travelling south and one for vehicles travelling north. The two south bound lanes are divided by a single broken line. The south bound lanes and the north bound lane are divided by a continuous parallel line. The posted speed limit for the section of road is 80 km/h. At the time of the crash the weather was fine, the road was dry and the traffic was light.
“The deceased” was travelling in a southerly direction on the East Derwent Highway. As he was exiting a sweeping right hand bend at the top of the crest prior to Murtons Road turnoff at Otago Bay he was travelling in the left of the two south bound lanes.
Witness, Mr F was travelling north along the East Derwent Highway at Otago Bay at approximately 11.40am on 13 February 2011. He was in the left lane approaching the crest of the hill just past Murtons Road when he saw a “motor bike travelling in the opposite direction. The rider was wearing a black leather jacket and black full face helmet.” He noticed the bike was fish tailing in the right hand lane and could see smoke coming off the rear wheel. In his opinion the rider had lost control.
Witness Mr G was also travelling in a northerly direction at the same time and saw a motorcycle approaching from the opposite direction. At approximately 400m away he observed that the rider appeared to have lost control with the motorcycle fish tailing. He then lost sight of the motorcycle as they went down into a dip. As they crested the hill he saw the bike and rider were airborne with the bike “approximately 3 feet in the air”.
Other witnesses travelling in the opposite direction to “the deceased” stated that the motorcycle appeared to be “tank slapping” or in other words fish tailing underneath him
Constable Cordwell, a qualified investigator with Tasmania Police Accident Investigation Services observed a single distinct tyre skid mark. “The mark was on the edge of the left most south bound lane. The skid mark continued for a distance of 39.1 metres virtually in a straight line. ………… This mark concluded where the bitumen met the gravel road. The tyre mark continued in the gravel on the eastern side of the road and continued for a distance of 12.7 metres. …………… At the conclusion of the gravel was a raised dirt/grass embankment a gouge mark was present on the edge of the bank. A void in the grassed area was identified, this void indicates that the motor cycle was airborne for a distance of 15.8 metres before landing in the grass and sliding for a distance of 50 metres”.
Tasmania Police determined that the initial minimum speed of the motor cycle at the time of the commencement of the first skid was 123km/h. This is the minimum speed for the motor cycle as the equation does not take into account effective braking prior to the skid or the utilisation of the front brake. Further calculations indicate that the motorcycle was travelling at 113km/h at the time it became airborne.
The motorcycle was airborne for approximately 15.8 metres before landing in the grass and sliding for a further 50 metres. After this it entered a deep culvert which runs parallel with the road way approximately 12 metres from the sealed bitumen. Debris, including the visor from “the deceased” helmet and his mobile phone was located in this culvert.
“The deceased” came to rest approximately 100 metres south of where the motorcycle left the road, lying at the bottom of the culvert. The motorcycle was approximately 10 metres east of where he lay.
The witnesses called emergency services and under their instruction put the deceased on his side in an attempt to clear his airway.
Tasmania Ambulance Service Officers arrived on the scene at 11.52am. They noted “the deceased” to be wearing a full faced helmet. He was unconscious, his airway was cleared and he was immobilised and transported to the Royal Hobart Hospital.
Royal Hobart Hospital records indicate that “the deceased” had experienced respiratory arrest just prior to arrival at the Emergency Department. He was clinically assessed with a closed head injury and compound fracture of the left femur. He died despite continued resuscitation efforts.
Dr Donald Ritchey, Forensic Pathologist carried out the post mortem of “the deceased”. In his opinion “the deceased” cause of death was “multiple blunt traumatic injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash”.
Toxicology testing carried out by Forensic Science Service Tasmania revealed “no apparent significant toxicology”.
Noel Clark, Transport Inspector, Department of Infrastructure Energy and Resources carried out an inspection of “the deceased” Yamaha motorcycle on 15 February 2011. In his opinion the “motor cycle was in a road worthy condition prior to the crash”.
Constable Gordon Jamieson, an experienced motorcycle Police Officer, conducted a number of ride throughs of the corner on his police motor cycle at the direction of the Accident Investigator. He concluded that at 80 km/h the corner could be comfortably negotiated. At 100 km/h he also found it comfortable to negotiate the corner. He then travelled at 150 km/h and determined that:-
“......at an increased speed, the curve presents two separate apexes to the right hand bend, the middle of which is the crest of the hill. It was somewhat more challenging to judge the apexes of the curve, and the exit was more difficult to pick a safe riding line through the curve at that speed”
“In my view an inexperienced motorcycle rider, would have great difficulty negotiating that section of the road at an increased speed above the 80 km/h limit. At a greater speed of more than 100 km/h it would be extremely dangerous to a rider of such experience.”
I am satisfied that a full and detailed investigation has been undertaken in relation to the death of “the deceased” and that there are no suspicious circumstances.
I accept that “the deceased” died as a result of multiple blunt traumatic injuries sustained in the motorcycle crash and that he was not impaired by alcohol or other illicit drugs at the time of the crash. I accept that the motorcycle was roadworthy at the time and it’s condition did not contribute to the crash. I further accept that the condition of the road did not contribute to the crash.
It is apparent that inexperience, excessive speed and unfamiliarity with the particular section of road were major contributors to the cause of the crash resulting in “the deceased” death.
I wish to conclude by conveying my sincere condolences to the family of “the deceased”
DATED : 27 July 2011 at Hobart in the state of Tasmania
Stephen Raymond Carey