Record of Investigation Into Death (Without Inquest)

Corners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
Rule 11

I, Stephen Raymond Carey, having investigated the death of

Linda Daunt

have decided not to hold a public inquest hearing into his death because my investigations have sufficiently disclosed the identity of the deceased person, 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.

Find That:

(a) The deceased is, Linda Daunt (“Mrs Daunt”) who died in the vicinity of 99 Nubeena Main Road, Taranna on 18 February 2013.

(b) Mrs Daunt who was born on 2 May 1916 and was aged 96 years at the date of her death.

(c) Mrs Daunt was a retired person who was widowed.

(d) Mrs Daunt died as a consequence of head and chest injuries following a single motor vehicle collision.  She was also noted to have severe ischaemic heart disease.

Circumstances Surrounding the Death:

Mrs Daunt appears, from the information provided on the investigation conduct, to have been a rather remarkable lady who maintained an independent and active lifestyle up until the time of her death notwithstanding her age.  She lived alone at her home at 90 Old Jetty Road, Eaglehawk Neck.  She was independent in relation to her housework and cooking and continued to perform such chores as chopping wood as required.  She was active within the local community enjoying contact with other members of the community.  She had maintained a restricted drivers licence notwithstanding her age with restrictions requiring her to drive during daylight hours only and only to drive on the Tasman Peninsula, as far north as the township of Dunalley.  Mrs Daunt enjoyed driving her vehicle, she was reported as being a very good driver, was always alert when driving and relied upon her car to maintain her independence. 

During the January 2013 bushfires that affected the Tasman Peninsula, Mrs Daunt was evacuated from her home address to Nubeena where she stayed at the Tasman Health and Community Services Centre.  During this period she slept in a chair at the centre and assisted nursing staff with the “oldies” at the nursing home.  She was reported to have been involved in assisting residents of the nursing home during the night, in particular assisting them to the toilet.  Although she, not unexpectedly, suffered a number of medical conditions due to her age, these conditions did not appear to cause any ill health nor restrict her in her daily activities.

On 18 February 2013 Mrs Daunt had apparently travelled from her home address to Nubeena where she attended an appointment with her general practitioner for the purposes of obtaining prescriptions of ongoing medication.  She has then gone to the local pharmacy, to obtain those prescriptions and has also attended the Commonwealth Bank outlet at the Australia Post office and withdrawn money.  She has then gone to the local bakery purchasing a meat pie before departing from Nubeena to return to her home address.

Dr Clare Fuller, who saw the applicant that morning, noted that the consultation was for a repeat of her medication which was used to treat her hypertension and angina.  Mrs Daunt’s presentation on that occasion gave the doctor no reason for concern.  Other persons who met her at Nubeena including the staff at the bakery reported her to be her normal friendly self and reported she was bright and bubbly and in good spirits.

Mrs Daunt has driven along the Nubeena Main Road towards Taranna and, after approximately 15 minutes, she has arrived at the crash site.  As a result of the investigation at the crash site, it became apparent that there were no skid marks on the roadway, there were visible tyres marks on the gravel verge which indicated that the vehicle was travelling at speed and was starting to slide to the right as it left the road into a dish drain parallel to the side of the road.  This crash site is at a location where the roadway curves significantly to the left and the camber of the roadway slopes to the right.  The vehicle continued along the dish drain for a distance of some 30 metres before colliding with a tree stump some 800 millimetres in diameter and approximately 1 metre high.  The force of the collision caused the tree stump to be pulled from the ground and caused the vehicle to become airborne for a period of some 8 metres before it came to rest with the driver side down into the drain and the rear driver’s quarter resting against another tree stump.  The vehicle sustained major damage on impact to the front end and driver’s side of the vehicle causing the vehicle to crumple and push the engine bay into the cockpit of the vehicle, the car’s roof crumpled in and bent the chassis at the B pillar as a result of the collision. 

The vehicle was located soon after the accident by National Park and Wildlife officers who came upon the scene, Mr Mike Copping and Mr Craig Reynolds.  Police were immediately contacted.  Mr Copping examined Mrs Daunt and could not identify any vital signs.  Police arrived at the scene at 12:22pm and also on location at that time was a volunteer ambulance paramedic, Mr Garry Linnell who confirmed, after examination, that Mrs Daunt had died. 

The post-mortem findings revealed extensive traumatic injuries to the face and head and some limb fractures as well as some chest injuries.  The heart was extremely enlarged with severe coronary artery disease.  The pathologist believes that it was quite likely that the heart disease could have triggered the collision, probably due to a cardiac arrhythmia.  Based on the investigation and the apparent lack of driver action at the time of the collision, I concur that in all likelihood Mrs Daunt suffered a cardiac incident which has rendered her unable to control her motor vehicle as it entered a right hand bend and she has therefore continued straight ahead into the drain on the other side of the roadway and the car has proceeded forward as described above.

Comments and Recommendations:

It is clear that it would not have been appropriate to restrict Mrs Daunt’s driving based upon the medical evidence known prior to the accident.  Notwithstanding significant cardiac disease identified at autopsy, the nature and extent of this was not known prior to the accident.  Given Mrs Daunt’s independence and her reliance upon her motor vehicle for that independence, there is no reason why she ought not to have been driving on the day of the accident.

This was a tragic accident to which an underlying significant medical condition played a significant part and it was not as a result of any failure or inability of Mrs Daunt in normal circumstances to properly control her motor vehicle.

The investigation has disclosed that the roadway at the location of this accident is deceptive and ought to be better controlled as the applicable speed limit of 90 kilometres an hour is considered too fast when proceeding through the left hand curve encountered by Mrs Daunt.  I therefore recommend that the appropriate authorities consider restricting the speed limit at that point or alternatively erecting arrowed signs to highlight the nature and extent of the curve. 

Before I conclude I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family of Mrs Daunt.

DATED:    14  day of August 2013.

Stephen Raymond Carey