Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
I, Glenn Hay, Coroner, having investigated a death of
Evan Redmond PEARCE
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
Evan Redmond PEARCE (Evan) died at about 1.45am on 24 June 2006 on the East Derwent Highway, Geilston Bay, near the turnoff to Sugarloaf Road.
Evan was born in Hobart, Tasmania on 16 July1989 and was aged 16 years. He was a single man who was a student at the time of his death.
I find that Evan died as a result of head injury which he received in a motor vehicle crash.
CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE DEATH:
During the evening of 23 June 2006 a number of young people had gathered at an eastern shore address. During the course of the evening alcohol was consumed to varying degrees by those in attendance, along with the smoking of cannabis.
A decision was made that most of the group would go for a drive in a number of vehicles with the 3 main vehicles being:
- a red 1997 Ford Fairmont, registration number EW-1997;
- a white Nissan Skyline, registration number CM-8747;
- a red Holden Commodore, registration number CP-3211.
All three vehicles were large, high powered and apparently ungoverned as to speed. The Ford had a 4.0 litre 6 cylinder engine with a power rating of 157kW
The three drivers of these vehicles were respectively:
- Samuel Jacob PULLEN aged 17 years. He had been the holder of a learner driver licence since 1 September 2005. Such licence would have contained conditions including not to drive with alcohol in his body, not to exceed 80km/h and to only drive with an ordinarily licenced driver in the passenger seat. The front passenger in Mr Pullen’s motor vehicle at the time of the crash did not hold a driving license.
- Paul KOMARZYNSKI aged 17. He had been the holder of a provisional driver licence since 6 October 2005 with conditions including not to drive with alcohol in his body and not to exceed 80km/h. He had a number of traffic related prior convictions.
- Samuel Kenneth Jae MORLEY aged 20. He had been the holder of a provisional driver licence since 18 May 2005 with conditions including not to drive with alcohol in his body and not to exceed 80km/h. Mr Morley admitted to using marijuana prior to the crash. He had a number of traffic and minor drug related prior convictions.
Mr Pullen drove the Ford Fairmont at any relevant time during the evening, however Mr Morley and Mr Komarzynski drove each other’s vehicles.
Earlier in the evening the group drove around various parts of Hobart, sometimes at very high speed. The group arrived at and spent some time at Sanderson’s Road near Risdon Cove where alcohol and cannabis was consumed. The three vehicles were then driven toward the Risdon roundabout and headed up the hill on the East Derwent Highway toward Geilston Bay. Evan was the left rear passenger in the vehicle driven by Pullen and he was seatbelted. There were three other passengers in this vehicle. At this time, a fourth vehicle, a red Holden Commodore registration number CI-7975 being driven by Philip Colin ROSE was following the three other vehicles.
After negotiating the roundabout the three vehicles accelerated rapidly to high speed and it is clear they were racing. Based upon evidence from various witnesses and forensic estimates the speed of the vehicles was in the vicinity of 160km/h as they approached the crest in the highway. Upon reaching a sweeping left hand bend at the crest of the hill, the vehicle being driven by Mr Pullen has moved to the right hand side of the road and has made contact with the guttering. This has caused the vehicle to cross to the left hand side of the road and crash into the embankment resulting in the vehicle becoming airborne. The vehicle has landed heavily on its roof and travelled a distance of some 80 meters on its roof before coming to a stop.
Unfortunately due to injuries which he received in the crash, Evan died at the scene.
A subsequent post mortem examination carried out by the State Forensic Pathologist ascertained the cause of Evan’s death as being due to head injuries which he received in the motor vehicle crash.
Toxicology analysis undertaken revealed the following:
- Samuel Jacob PULLEN – a blood alcohol level of 0.025g/100mL of blood and the presence of THC (indicating the use of cannabis);
- Samuel Kenneth Jae MORLEY - a blood level of 0.015g/100mL of blood. He later admitted to using marijuana prior to the crash.
- Paul Joseph KOMARZYNSKI – a blood alcohol level of 0.014g/100mL of blood.
The Ford driven by Mr Pullen was likely owned by him but was not registered and was not roadworthy due to the non-compliance of the front right tyre and tinted film applied to the side windows displayed light transmittance of only 20%. I can draw no conclusion whether or not either of these defects caused or contributed to the crash.
I am satisfied that neither the road nor the driving conditions were causative or contributory to this crash.
However, based on the available evidence I am satisfied that inexperienced and unsupervised driving coupled with excessive speed, racing between the three vehicles, experimentation/risk taking behaviour, youthful over-confidence, peer/gender pressure by passengers and driving whilst under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs are all factors which, whether in isolation or combined, have resulted in this tragic and unnecessary crash and death.
COMMENTS & RECOMMENDATIONS:
Mr Pullen, Mr Komarzynski and Mr Morley were charged with causing death by dangerous driving and causing grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving.
Mr Pullen pleaded guilty and on 27 June 2007 in the Tasmanian Supreme Court before His Honour Justice Evans. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment to date from 4 June 2007 and to be eligible for parole after serving half of that sentence and a probation order for 2 years from the date of release from prison. His drivers licence was also suspended until 1 January 2010.
Mr Komarzynski and Mr Morley were found guilty of the charges in the Tasmanian Supreme Court before His Honour Justice Slicer. On 20 December 2007 both were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment to commence from 12 December 2007 and ineligible for parole until the expiration of half of the sentence. Both men are subject to a probation order for a period of 2 years from the date of release and are disqualified from holding or obtaining a drivers licence until 1 June 2010.
Having regard to the information contained on the file as to the outcome of the charges preferred against Mr Pullen, Mr Morley and Mr Komarzynski, I find that there is no cause for me to resume the Inquest pursuant to Section 26(1) of the Coroners Act 1995.
There are many tragic circumstances surrounding this death and bearing them in mind, it would be remiss of me not to make further comment to encourage others to consider or research further the following matters which may possibly reduce the likelihood of future deaths of our youthful citizens on our roads or at least have them drive under low-risk conditions. In doing so I acknowledge that I have adopted some of these recommendations from those suggested by the police officer investigating this death on my behalf.
- limiting the power-to-weight ratio of vehicles permitted to be driven by young or inexperienced drivers;
- governing the maximum speed of vehicles permitted to be owned or driven by young or inexperienced drivers;
- limiting the number of peer passengers in vehicles being driven by young or inexperienced drivers;
- applying a restriction on the hours when a young or inexperienced driver can drive a vehicle at all and/or drive with any passengers in the vehicle, especially late night restrictions;
- encouraging parental involvement/supervision of young or inexperienced drivers;
- encouraging or requiring offender drivers to be involved in the education of young prospective drivers.
- consideration of the insertion into the motor vehicles driven by young or inexperienced drivers of In-Vehicle Intelligent Transport Systems (such as speed limiters; over-speed warning devices; alcohol interlocks and alcohol ‘sniffers’ coupled to engine immobilisers).
I wish to conclude by conveying my sincere condolences to the family of Evan.
DATED: Friday, 2 May 2008 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania.