Record of Investigation into Death (Without Inquest)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
I, Simon J Cooper, Coroner, having investigated the death of Yvonne Lorraine White.
I Find That:
(a) The identity of the deceased is Yvonne Lorraine White;
(b) Mrs White’s death occurred as the result of a motor vehicle accident;
(c) Mrs White’s death was caused by injuries she sustained in the motor vehicle accident which caused her to suffer an acute cardiac decompensation resulting from a contusion of her heart, which in turn was complicated by severe underlying hypertensive and atherosclerotic vascular disease;
(d) Mrs White died on 30 October 2012 on the Tasman Highway, approximately 5 kilometres north of Swansea;
(e) Mrs White was born on King Island on 16 August 1935, and was aged 77 years. She was married and her occupation was home duties at the time of her death; and
(f) No other person contributed to her death.
Circumstances Surrounding the Death:
Shortly after 2:00pm on Tuesday 30 October 2012 Mrs Yvonne Lorraine White, known to her family and friends as ‘Kate’, was driving a grey Honda Civic sedan, registration FC0837, in a southerly direction along the Tasman Highway, 5 kilometres north of Swansea. She had left her home in Bicheno after lunch to take some clothes to a friend who was in hospital in Swansea.
At the same time Chih Tung Chang was driving a blue Toyota Yaris sedan, registration C95PZ, in a northerly direction along the Tasman Highway. Mr Chang’s wife, Zhao Ru Xu, was the front seat passenger in his vehicle.
At about 2.15pm the cars driven by Mrs White and Mr Chang collided. As Mr Chang approached the point of collision he described seeing Mrs White’s car approaching him and that the car was stirring up some dust on the edge of the road.
He said his wife called a warning and he saw Mrs White’s car “coming at [his] car passenger side first”. Mr Chang was unable to manoeuvre his vehicle so as to avoid a collision and both cars collided.
He described losing consciousness for a short period, as well as his wife suffering serious injuries in the accident.
A short time later Kenneth Plunkett drove upon the crash scene. He checked on the occupants of both vehicles before calling emergency services. He spoke to Mrs White who was still in her car. She introduced herself as ‘Kate’. Mr Plunkett said that Mrs White was then both awake and aware of what was going on around her.
The material provided as part of the investigation shows that emergency services were called at 2.15pm and Volunteer Tasmanian Ambulance Service (‘TAS’) personnel attended from both Swansea and Campbell Town, along with Dr Andrew Groves a medical practitioner from Swansea.
TAS paramedics arrived from Triabunna at 2.44pm. Upon their arrival it was observed that Mrs White was in cardiac arrest. Resuscitation procedures were performed for a period of time however she remained unresponsive and was declared deceased shortly after.
I am satisfied that the response times of the Tasmanian Ambulance Service were appropriate in the circumstances. I am also satisfied that the treatment afforded to Mrs White at the scene both by emergency services personnel and Dr Groves was appropriate. No more, in my view, could possibly have been done for Mrs White.
Fortunately Mr Chang and Ms Xu were able to be treated for their injuries.
Turning to the actual collision I am satisfied from the investigation conducted by Tasmania Police into this matter that Mrs White’s vehicle, whilst negotiating a lightly sweeping curve in the road, moved partially onto the gravel verge to her left. It is also clear that Mrs White attempted to correct the course of her vehicle by steering to the right but in doing she has lost control of it. Her vehicle then moved in an arc into the lane for oncoming traffic and directly into the path of Mr Chang’s approaching vehicle. Mr Chang was unable to avoid Mrs White’s vehicle and the front of his vehicle struck the front left corner and door of hers.
Both vehicles involved in the collision were inspected as part of the investigation by a very experienced Transport Inspector, Mr Peter Moses. Mr Moses’ opinion, which I accept, is that prior to the accident both vehicles were in a sound, roadworthy condition and that there was no identifiable mechanical reason for the collision.
The investigation also revealed that Mrs White had rested the night before, was in reasonable health, apparently happy, and very familiar with the stretch of road where the accident occurred. In addition the investigation determined that there was nothing about the road surface or the weather which could be identified as contributing in any way to the accident. Mrs White was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident and there is nothing to suggest speed contributed to the collision.
Nothing about Mr Chang’s driving caused or contributed to the accident. He was not speeding, no alcohol was present in his body. While morphine was found in Mr Chang’s blood I find its presence was due to the drugs administered by TAS personnel at the accident scene.
A post-mortem examination of Mrs White was conducted on 31 October 2012 and it was determined that she died of multiple blunt traumatic injuries, sustained in a motor vehicle crash. I accept that opinion. Toxicological results revealed nothing of any significance so far as Mrs White was concerned.
In summary there was no medical reason which caused or contributed to the accident.
In my opinion the only explanation for the collision was driver error on the part of Mrs White.
Comments and Recommendations:
I have decided not to hold a public inquest hearing into this death because my investigations have sufficiently disclosed the identity of Mrs White, the date, place, cause of death, relevant circumstances concerning how her death occurred, and the particulars needed to register her 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 significant information further to that disclosed by the investigations conducted by me.
I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family of Mrs White.
DATED: 14 February 2014 at Hobart in Tasmania
Simon J. Cooper