Record of Investigation into Death
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Regulations 1996
I, Stephen Raymond Carey, Coroner, having investigated the death of
Ricky James PARREMORE
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
(a) The identity of the deceased is Ricky James PARREMORE (Mr Parre more) who was born on 12 February 1975, was aged 34 years at the time of his death, was a single man who was unemployed.
(b) Mr Parremore died as a result of saltwater drowning following entrapment within a submerged car. A significant contributing factor was mixed drug intoxication (alcohol, alprazolam, diazepam, oxycodone, methadone, morphine, methylamphetamine, THC).
(c) Mr Parremore died in the cabin area of a submerged motor vehicle in the water in the vicinity of the Eaglehawk Neck jetty, Pirates Bay in Tasmania.
(d) Mr Parremore died on 30 May 2009.
(e) No other person contributed to the cause of Mr Parremore’s death.
Mr Parremore was living with his mother, Maureen Parremore, at her home at 10 Anane Street, Chigwell. He has an extensive history of drug and alcohol use. At the time of his death he was being clinically medicated on a daily basis with Kapanol (morphine), Valium and Toradol through his treating general practitioner, Dr Chris Wake.
On Saturday 30 May 2009 Mr Parremore travelled from Chigwell to Eaglehawk Neck jetty via the Shell Service Station at Claremont and the Dunalley Hotel, Dunalley. He departed his home address some time after 5.00 pm in company with Rodney Wayne McKenna and Derek Leigh Walker. The group were travelling in Mr Parremore’s car which he was driving, a 1987 red Toyota Corolla, Reg No. FG 3090. The car was refuelled at the Shell Service Station, Claremont at approximately 7.17 pm and at 8.16 pm Mr Parremore was seen in the bar area of the Dunalley Hotel where he purchased and consumed three alcoholic drinks (in shot glasses) and also purchased a large bottle of soft drink to take away. The other two males had consumed alcohol during the course of the journey. The car was then driven to the Eaglehawk Neck jetty where Mr Parremore drove onto the jetty to a position past an L-bend in the jetty, stopping approximately 15 metres from the end of the jetty. The three men remained in this location and commenced fishing during which time they consumed a quantity of alcohol (including beer, wine and possibly vodka) as well as smoking cannabis. The three remained at this location fishing for approximately 2½ hours and during the time Mr Parremore and Mr McKenna are believed to have had three disagreements. Firstly, regarding damage caused by Mr Parremore to a fishing rod belonging to Mr McKenna which resulted in Mr McKenna throwing a fishing rod belonging to Mr Parremore into the water. The second dispute followed shortly after when Mr Parremore decided he wanted to use the diving gear belonging to Mr McKenna but Mr McKenna refused him the use of this equipment. After a decision was made by the three to leave the jetty because of poor fishing at around 11.00 pm and to travel to White Beach a third disagreement occurred when Mr McKenna expressed the desire to drive the deceased’s vehicle. However Mr Parremore insisted that he would drive.
The accounts from Mr McKenna and Mr Walker indicate that Mr Parremore entered the vehicle and reversed it along the jetty and around the bend in the jetty with them guiding the driver. They then entered the vehicle with Mr McKenna sitting in the front passenger seat and Mr Walker in the rear passenger seat. Mr Parremore then for some unexplained reason drove forward rather than continuing to reverse. He did not speak to his companions but drove his vehicle off the end of the jetty into the water. Mr McKenna describes attempts to find the handbrake and also asking Mr Parremore what he was doing. When the vehicle hit the water it remained on the surface for a short period during which time Mr Walker was able to exit via his partially lowered door window. Mr McKenna remained in the vehicle as it settled to the bottom of the bay, in approximately 2-4 metres of water. He then exited via his passenger door after the cabin filled with water. Both men then made their way back to shore and attended a nearby holiday home to raise the alarm.
State Emergency Service personnel, police and the police diving team all attended to assist in the treatment of the survivors and the subsequent recovery of Mr Parremore who remained in his vehicle.
The police have conducted an extensive investigation into the circumstances of this accident. This involved a careful assessment of all the evidence in order to assess the reliability of the version of events provided by the two survivors. In addition, a number of assertions have been made that in some way Mr Parremore’s death was not an accident as outlined, but rather as a result of unlawful action taken by others against him. In this regard a number of specific issues were investigated. Firstly, there was a concern given inconsistencies and a changing version of events provided by Derek Walker in interviews conducted by police. As to the inconsistencies, I accept that his early statements were likely affected by;
a high level of intoxication;
the influences of emotional and physical shock relating to the incident;
a desire to impress others in the alleged actions he claimed that he took; and
a desire to remove himself and Mr McKenna from any potential for blame.
Secondly, there were suggestions that Mr Parremore had been "set up", these suggestions being raised by Mr Glen Pearce. In this regard Mr Pearce says that Mr Parremore had told him that "he was going fishing with three mates and that he was going to get set up". This information cannot be verified from any other source and was not specific in relation to either time or as to the nature of any "set up". In addition, the circumstances of the actual event raise serious questions concerning the accuracy and veracity of this statement. Mr Parremore travelled to Eaglehawk Neck with two males and not three, and the second male (Mr Walker) had not previously met Mr Parremore and could not be classed as a "mate". Finally, Mr Walker’s attendance on the night was not planned as he was a late addition and it is unlikely in those circumstances that Mr Parremore could have anticipated Mr Walker’s attendance prior to the night.
Mr Pearce also raised issues that there had been an ongoing feud between "Derek" and Mr Parremore suggestive that there was bad blood between Mr Parremore and Mr Derek Walker. Mr Pearce indicated that a male person by the name of "Derek" had a "huge fight" with Mr Parremore about six months prior to this incident. This person was described as living near the Claremont High School and Mr Pearce indicated that Mr Parremore "hated" this person. Mr Pearce was unaware of any other enemies that Mr Parremore may have had. Police enquiries have excluded Mr Derek Walker as the person alluded to in this information from Mr Pearce. The investigation does not disclose any prior contact between Mr Walker and Mr Parremore prior to the night of the accident. Mr Parremore’s father, Mr Douglas Parremore, advised police that the person referred to as "Derek" was likely to be a Derek Smith who was a person who had been in a fight with his son approximately 3-4 months previously. Mr Derek Smith lives in the vicinity of the Claremont High School.
Finally, Mrs Maureen Parremore, the mother of Mr Parremore indicated to police that she believed that her son was "set up and murdered" based upon the following;
He did not have plans to go anywhere over that weekend because he would need access to further doses of morphine.
Her son seemed in two minds as to whether he would be going fishing.
She had heard third hand from Ms Debra McCauley that Ms Natasha Scott had been overheard discussing a bloke being taken away and tortured.
As to the first point, Mr Parremore attended the Risdon Vale Pharmacy on Thursday 28 May and collected his morphine medication for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the weekend of the accident. This was not a normal circumstance and he had previously arranged approval for this course of action through his doctor, Chris Wake.
As to the second matter, CCTV footage obtained from the Shell Service Station at Claremont and the Dunalley Hotel contain images of Mr Parremore indicating that he was content and under no obvious duress or pressure to travel with the other two males. Not only was he seen to be in a happy mood on the video footage at the Dunalley Hotel, but a staff member recalls him to be enjoying his drinks at the bar and relaxed.
As to the final point, the information provided by Ms Debra McCauley came from Ms Danielle McCauley and this person claims the source of the information was from Natasha Scott who at the time was Mr McKenna’s girlfriend. This alleged conversation was said to have occurred at the Glenorchy Central Pharmacy in the previous week but CCTV footage has been reviewed for this period and although Ms Scott’s attendance at the pharmacy has been identified, at no stage does it appear that Ms McCauley was also at the pharmacy during her visits. In addition, Ms McCauley does not assert that she heard Mr Parremore’s name used during the alleged conversation. Ms McCauley is also a known drug user and she refused to formalise her allegations in the form of an affidavit or sworn statement and I am unable to give any appreciable weight to her assertion.
I’m satisfied based on the investigation and in particular statements from Mr Parremore’s family and his associates at the time, that there was no indication that his mental state was such that he planned or contemplated self harm.
I believe that matters relevant to finding an explanation for Mr Parremore’s conduct lie with the disagreements he had had with Mr McKenna during the night, together with his highly elevated blood alcohol concentration in combination with multiple licit and illicit drugs. Post mortem blood alcohol analysis showed a reading of 0.198 g/100ml (0.198%). This was present together with the range of drugs listed previously. In particular, there were three separate opiads (oxycodone, methadone and morphine), two benzodiazepines (alprazolam and diazepam), and two illicit drugs (methylamphetamine and THC). The forensic scientist who analysed this blood sample noted that;
"This alcohol and drug combination would cause marked impairment to an individual’s ability to properly control a motor vehicle and would likely be exhibiting toxic adverse effects on most individuals. The combination would be potentially fatal in an individual with no previous experience with these drugs, however, after long term use tolerance can occur to some of the adverse effects exhibited by the drugs identified."
In this case Mr Parremore was a long time user of the drugs identified and would have no doubt developed some tolerance to the adverse effects associated with the drugs, however due to the mixture of alcohol and these drugs at the levels found upon testing, there was a high likelihood of significant impairment and adverse effects to occur.
Dr Chris Wake, the treating general practitioner of Mr Parremore, gives a further insight as to what might have occurred. He had been the treating doctor of Mr Parremore for three periods, July to November 2006 at the Alcohol and Drug Services St Johns Park, Hobart; November 2007 to January 2008 in Risdon Prison; and as a community physician from January 2008 until April 2009. Dr Wake confirms that arrangements had been made by Mr Parremore to collect his medication in order that he could go fishing over the weekend. He spoke to Mr Parremore on the phone on 28 May 2009 and noted that he was bright and cheerful, not intoxicated, and spoke about his dogs. He states;
"In my opinion Mr Parremore was not depressed and was not contemplating suicide during the months that I cared for him in the community. It is my view to the contrary that, things were getting somewhat better for him – he was more under control. Despite his improvement he continued to be impulsive and violent especially under the influence of alcohol. It is my belief and opinion that these are the traits that may have led to his death on 30 May 2009 rather than depressive illness or suicide."
I am satisfied based upon all of the material that Mr Parremore has driven his car into the water off the jetty at Pirates Bay for reasons that cannot be clearly and precisely determined. However, it is likely to have been an impulsive or involuntary act triggered by disagreements he had had with Mr McKenna in combination with a significant impairment as a result of the effects of the alcohol and drugs in his system or as a result of confusion and disorientation caused by alcohol and drug impairment.
The evidence is such that I cannot conclude that he did this act with a deliberate intent to take his own life and accordingly find that he died as a result of an unfortunate accident.
Comments and Recommendations:
Although a rather unique and complicated case, this tragic accident once again highlights the risks associated with driving whilst impaired either as a result of the consumption of alcohol, consumption of drugs either licit or illicit, or a combination of both as in this case.
I wish to conclude by conveying my sincere condolences to the family of Mr Parremore.
This matter is now concluded
DATED : The 4 day of October 2010 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania