Record of Investigation into Death
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Regulations 1996
I, Glenn Hay, Coroner, having investigated the death of
have decided not to hold a public inquest hearing into this death because my investigations have sufficiently disclosed the identities, the time, place, cause of death, relevant circumstances concerning how the death occurred 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 a public inquest hearing would elicit any information further to that disclosed by the investigations conducted by me.
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
Find That :
(a) Leanne Robbins (Ms Robbins) died on 15 May 2010 on the Midland Highway, 1.5 kilometres south of Elderslie Road, Brighton.
(b) Ms Robbins was born in Hobart, Tasmania on 3 March 1970 and was aged 40 years at the time of her death. She never married but lived with her 10 year old daughter and was employed as a clerk.
(c) Ms Robbins died due to blunt traumatic injuries sustained in a two vehicle motor vehicle crash.
(d) Theo John Smithurst (Mr Smithurst) was the driver of a vehicle that collided with the front of Ms Robbins’ vehicle and the impact of the collision caused the fatal blunt trauma injuries to Ms Robbins.
(e) Mr Smithurst was convicted in the Supreme Court of Tasmania on Complaint No. 11405/10, on 31 August 2011 of:-
Causing death by Dangerous Driving
Drive whilst not the holder of a driver licence
Drive a motor vehicle while exceeding the prescribed alcohol limit (0.193 g/100ml)
Driver, not a holder of a driver lience, with alcohol in body, and
Drive a motor vehilce whilst a prescribed illicit drug (THC) was present in his blood.
Mr Smithurst was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment. The Chief Justice ordered a non-parole period of half the sentence imposed and disqualified Mr Smithurst from obtaining a driver licence for three years.
Circumstances Surrounding the Death:
At about 2.50am on Saturday 15 May 2010 Ms Robbins was the driver and sole occupant of her vehicle, a Ford Laser, registration number, EJ-1942. She had been visiting friends in Hobart and was driving in a northerly direction along the Midland Highway with the intention of returning home to Scottsdale. From subsequent forensic testing of blood and witness evidence, I find that Ms Robbins had consumed alcohol and cannabis prior to commencing her journey; however from the circumstances of the crash it is clear they did not contribute to the crash in any way.
At the same time Mr Smithurst was the driver and sole occupant, of his Toyota Landcruiser, registration number, DF-8380. He was travelling in a southerly direction on the Midland Highway with the intention of attending his daughter’s home for her birthday. While travelling from his home at Stonehenge towards Hobart Mr Smithurst spent approximately 5 to 6 hours at the Melton Mowbray Hotel where he consumed between eight to ten stubby bottles of Mercury Draught cider. He also used quantities of amphetamine and cannabis at this location. He admitted that he was a regular user of cannabis. He slept in his vehicle for about an hour prior to continuing his journey.
As both vehicles approached in opposite directions a point 1.5 kilometres south of the intersection of the Midland Highway and Elderslie Road, near Brighton, Mr Smithurst’s vehicle crossed the dividing line that separated vehicular traffic moving in the opposite direction. In doing so his vehicle collided with the front of Ms Robbins’ vehicle. The impact caused extensive damage to her vehicle and she sustained fatal blunt trauma injuries, dying immediately. Mr Smithurst sustained non-life threatening fractures to one leg, several ribs and facial injuries to his nose and mouth.
On the morning of 17 May 2010 a post-mortem examination was conducted on Ms Robbins by Forensic Pathologist, Dr Donald Ritchey. As a result of the examination he determined that the cause of Ms Robbins death was multiple blunt trauma injuries she sustained in the motor vehicle crash. His report also identified the presence of alcohol and cannabis but in quantities that could be expected, in combination, to have little influence on her driving ability. I accept and adopt his opinion.
As a result of the accident a blood sample was taken from Mr Smithurst and analysed with his consent. This examination revealed the presence of alcohol, to a highly elevated level of 0.193g/100ml and the presence of illicit drugs methylamphetamine and THC (cannabis)
Both Ms Robbins and Mr Smithurst’s vehicles were examined by a qualified Transport Inspector and while minor defects were identified I find these did not have a contributory effect to the cause of this accident.
At the time of the crash the Midland Highway near Brighton had a reduced speed restriction of 60 kilometres per hour due to the nearby construction of a by-pass. Excessive speed is not a contributory factor in the cause of this accident as there is no indication that either vehicle was not complying with the 60 kilometre speed restriction. The roadway could be safely negotiated at the previously imposed speed limit of 100 kilometres per hour.
At the time of the accident there was no street lighting available however its absence is not considered a contributory factor in the circumstances leading to the crash.
At the time of the accident the weather was fine and dry and the atmospheric conditions are not considered a contributory factor in the circumstances leading to the crash.
At the site of and leading to the accident the road surface is sealed bitumen. It was in good repair and the condition of the road surface is not considered a contributory factor in the circumstances leading to the crash.
Additional Findings and Comments:
There is no evidence to indicate that either of the vehicles involved in the crash were travelling at an inappropriate speed.
The crash occurred within the northbound lane in which Ms Robbins vehicle was travelling.
Mr Smithurst’s vehicle moved into the northbound lane directly into the path of Ms Robbins vehicle.
The condition of the two vehicles did not contribute to the crash and there were no apparent road defects or obstructions at the time of the crash.
It is clear that at the time of the crash Mr Smithurst had had little sleep. He had consumed a significant amount of alcohol as well as illicit drugs during a period of several hours prior to the crash. When he left the vicinity of the Melton Mowbray Hotel not long before the crash he was clearly intoxicated to such an extent that he was a danger to other road users. I am unable to say whether he went to sleep while driving immediately before the crash or whether he just lost proper control of his vehicle due to the above-listed factors. In any event his actions, especially the over-consumption of alcohol and failing to get enough sleep, unfortunately and regrettably caused the death of Ms Robbins.
Mr Smithurst had been before the courts on four prior occasions charged with drink driving offences and on his own admission he was aware his driver’s licence had expired in in June 2009 and that he knew he was driving whilst unlicensed at the time of the crash and had not taken steps to renew that licence because he was aware that a liver function test was required by the licensing authority before there would be any consideration of renewing his licence to drive. It is clear to me that Mr Smithurst was fully aware that he was addicted to alcohol, yet he still chose to drive.
Had he taken more sensible and reasonable steps to attend to his own health and safety and that of others in our community then this most unfortunate death may not have occurred.
In closing I convey my most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Ms Robbins.
Dated : 22 January 2013 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania.