RECORD OF INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH (WITHOUT INQUEST)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
‘These findings have been de-identified by direction of the Coroner pursuant to S.57(1)(c) of Coroners Act 1995’
I, Melanie Bartlett, Coroner, having investigated the death of
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
I have decided not to hold an inquest into the death because the investigations into the death have sufficiently disclosed the identity of the deceased person, the time, place, cause of death, relevant circumstances concerning the death and the particulars needed to register the death under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1999.
I do not consider that the holding of an inquest would elicit any information further to that disclosed by the investigations conducted.
I FIND THAT:
(a) The identity of the deceased is Mr B who was born in Devonport, Tasmania on 4 November 1972;
(b) Mr B died as a result of injuries sustained by him when the motor vehicle he was driving was involved in a motor vehicle crash;
(c) The cause of his death was multiple blunt injuries consistent with a motor vehicle crash;
(d) Mr B died on 24 November 2010 on the Bass Highway, Latrobe.
CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE DEATH:
Mr B lived with his de facto wife, Ms C. Mr B and Ms C were in a relationship for seventeen and a half years. And they have four children together.
At approximately 8:30am on Wednesday 24 of November 2010, Mr B and Ms C left their home address to travel to Launceston for a doctor’s appointment for Ms C. Mr B’s cousin, Mr F, accompanied the pair during this journey.
En route to Launceston they stopped at Devonport for approximately 40 minutes and Mr B purchased an eight ball table. Upon leaving Devonport Mr B was driving, Ms C was sitting in the front passenger seat and Mr F was in the back seat behind Ms C. All three persons were wearing seat belts and were travelling in a 1993 Mitsubishi Nissan Pajero.
Driving conditions at this time were extremely poor. The road was extremely wet and slippery following heavy rainfall in the Latrobe area. Visibility was quite poor.
At approximately 10:20am that morning, Mr J was driving a white Nissan UD medium rigid truck along the Bass Highway. He was completing deliveries for Ibbotts Home Hardware on this day.
As Mr J approached Latrobe, a truck in front of him indicated to turn left off the Bass Highway. Mr J eased off the accelerator which subsequently engaged the exhaust brake. He then applied the brakes.
The application of the foot brake in addition to the exhaust brake on the wet road caused Mr J to lose control of the truck. The truck aquaplaned in the wet conditions, spun 360 degrees. Mr J’s truck crossed onto the incorrect side of the road and collided with a Holden Rodeo Utility being driven by Ms A. She was uninjured. The truck then continued into the path of the Pajero being driven by Mr B. The rear of the truck tray then collided with the driver side of the Pajero. Mr B died on impact.
Ms C and Mr F received minor injuries as a result of the crash and were conveyed to the Mersey Community Hospital for observation. No other person was injured as a result of the crash.
A post mortem conducted by Dr Ritchey (Pathologist) concluded that Mr B died as a result of severe blunt trauma injuries.
The Bass Highway at Latrobe is the major arterial route for traffic travelling between Devonport and Launceston. The area that the collision occurred in was governed by a 90km/h speed limit. In the area of road which the collision occurred there is a single lane for west and east bound traffic. The collision occurred within the east bound lane. Mr B’s vehicle was on the correct side of the road when the collision occurred.
At the time of the collision rain was falling heavily and as a result there was a large amount of water covering the highway surface. Rainfall was so extreme that large pools of water had begun forming on the road surface. Road conditions were a significant contributing factor in this collision.
The truck and Pajero were examined by Transport Inspectors and both appeared to be in a good road worthy condition prior to the collision.
On 3 December 2010, Mr J was interviewed by police. As a result of investigations conducted in regards to this crash Mr J was charged with one count of driving without due care and attention. On 31 August 2010, Mr J attended the Devonport Court of Petty Sessions, pleaded guilty and was convicted of this charge.
COMMENTS & RECOMMENDATIONS:
It is clear that the condition of the road as a result of the heavy rainfall was a significant contributing factor in this collision. In addition, it is clear that the use of the exhaust brake was unwise in these conditions as it caused a loss of control by Mr J of his vehicle. Mr J was co-operative with Police and gave a free and frank account of the events leading up to and surrounding the collision. During the police interview Mr J stated that he now realises that he probably shouldn’t have had the exhaust brake activated in the wet, particularly when the road was so slippery.
I am satisfied on the basis of the evidence of Dr Ritchey and I find that Mr B died as a consequence of severe blunt trauma injuries of the head, thorax and abdomen which resulted in near instantaneous death.
This matter reinforces the need for appropriate levels of driver education for drivers of larger vehicles such as medium rigid vehicles, particularly as demonstrated in this case where the condition of the road was affected by heavy rainfall. In particular, education in relation to the safe use of exhaust brakes in such vehicles should be ensured.
Before I conclude this matter, I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family of Mr B.
This matter is now concluded.
DATED: Thursday 29 March 2012 at Devonport in the State of Tasmania