Record of Investigation Into Death (Without Inquest)

Corners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
Rule 11

I, Stephen Raymond Carey, having investigated the death of

Janice Peow Chye Foo

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.

I Find:

(a) The identity of the deceased is Janice Foo Peow Chye  (“Ms Foo”) who died on 30 November 2012.

(b) Ms Foo was born in Singapore on 15 August 1957 and was a Singapore National aged 55 at the date of her death.

(c) Ms Foo was employed as an administrative assistant.

(d) Ms Foo died as a result of head and neck injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident that occurred on the Arthur Highway near Copping in Tasmania.

Circumstances Surrounding the Death:

Ms Foo had arrived in Tasmania with five family members on 29 November 2012.  On 30 November 2012 the group travelled together in a Kia Carnival motor vehicle  registration number C 17 LS which had been hired from Hertz Rent-a-Car at the Hobart Airport travelling to Port Arthur where they spent the day sight-seeing.  For the return journey the vehicle was being driven by Ms Foo’s brother-in-law, Gek Meng Ee.  Although Mr Ee had held a driver’s licence in Singapore for many years, his experience extended to driving on mainly urban roads which were straight and at speeds of approximately 60 kilometres an hour.  He was inexperienced in driving a vehicle the size of the Kia Carnival and also on rural roads such as the Arthur Highway from Port Arthur to Hobart.

As the vehicle was travelling towards Copping, it was noted to be travelling at a speed of approximately 50 kilometres per hour and on occasion was noted to be veering within its lane and on occasion crossed the centre line separating north and south bound lanes. These observations indicate that Mr Ee was having difficulty maintaining control of the vehicle. Approximately 2 kilometres south of Copping, Mr Ee has commenced to negotiate a closed right hand bend.  The passenger side wheels of the vehicle have entered onto the gravel verge on the western side of the road.  The passenger side has then struck a rock face which was fairly close to the road edge.  Mr Ee has been unable to control the steering of the vehicle.  The vehicle has struck a concrete culvert and gone over an embankment travelling until it struck a tree head-on, coming to rest.

There were six occupants in the vehicle at the time, the vehicle being licensed to carry eight persons having three rows of seats.  Ms Foo was seated in the rear passenger side seat.  At the time of the accident, Ms Foo was not wearing her seatbelt and was thrown forward, striking heavily the front row of seats and travelling forward, landing on the lap of the front passenger.  Ms Foo showed signs of life initially after the accident but died prior to the arrival of ambulance personnel.

All survivors were taken to the Royal Hobart Hospital by ambulance.  Mr Ee was admitted with minor injuries.  The front seat passenger was released a short time after admission and the remaining three passengers received broken bones and were detained.

Ms Foo was not wearing her seatbelt at the time of the accident.  Had she been doing so she would not have been thrown from her seated position and it was more likely than not that she would not have suffered the injuries which lead to her death. It is suspected that others in the vehicle were also not wearing a seat belt.

The autopsy findings reveal diffuse subarachnoid haemorrhage.  There is a hyperextension injury of the lower neck.  There are left facial fractures.  There is a large amount of hemoaspiration presumably due to the facial fractures.  There is also a very full stomach indicating that Ms Foo may well have aspirated gastric contents in addition.  The other significant finding was a pinhole stenosis of about 90% of the left anterior descending coronary artery.  The pathologist believed that this may have accelerated death due to her injuries.  He concludes:

“The injuries in of themselves are not particularly extensive, although the severity of the head and neck injuries is difficult to gauge.  It would appear that the failure to wear a seatbelt was highly significant in this death, leading to the hyperextension injury of the neck and the impact with the dashboard.”

Comments and Recommendations:

This tragic accident was as a result of the inexperience of the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident and also the failure Ms Foo to wear her seatbelt.  I recommend that consideration be given to requiring hire cars to display a label inside the cabin of the vehicles stating clearly the legal obligation for all persons to wear seatbelts whilst the vehicle is in motion.

Before I conclude I wish to convey my sincere condolences to the family of Ms Foo.

DATED: 14 day of August 2013.

Stephen Raymond Carey