Record Of Investigation Into Death

Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
Rule 11


I, Chris P. Webster, Coroner, having investigated the death of:

Peter Cecil Kukuljevic


Find That :

(a) Peter Cecil Kukuljevic (Mr Kukuljevic) died on 16 November 2010 on the Murchison Highway, 4 kilometres north of Tullah, Tasmania, aged 42 years.

(b) Mr Kukuljevic was born on 1 August 1968 in Launceston. He was self-employed business owner, was separated and had a young daughter.

(c) Mr Kukuljevic died as a result of multiple blunt traumatic injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash.

Background :

Mr Kukuljevic lived in Blackwood Creek, Tasmania and was a self-employed information technology professional, operating a business known as Bush Gully Enterprises based in Launceston. The business employed seven staff, including Mr Kukuljevic. A number of clients of Bush Gully Enterprises were located along the west coast of Tasmania, including mining companies along the Murchison Highway and Cradle Mountain Link Road, and business located in Strahan and Launceston. The business was planning to open an office in Queenstown. Over the past three years Mr Kukuljevic usually worked in the business for a few months a year and the other time on his yacht on the east coast of Australia, however recently he spent a longer period of time working while the business was expanding.

At the time of the accident Mr Kukuljevic was with one of his employees, Mr Nathan Green, who had worked with the business for about five years. They had both driven to Queenstown as they were working to set up the new office and employing new staff to work there. Registered to the business was a green 1993 Toyota Landcruiser stationwagon, which Mr Kukuljevic was driving at the time of his death.

Circumstances Surrounding the Death :

About 4:00pm on 16 November 2010, Mr Green arrived at Bass Metals on Cradle Mountain Link Road to install several computers. About half an hour later Mr Kukuljevic arrived to assist before they both left the site in separate vehicles around 5:30pm. Mr Kukuljevic was a few minutes ahead of Mr Green on the road.

After about ten minutes driving Mr Green caught up to Mr Kukuljevic in his vehicle at the juntion of Cradle Mountain Link Road and Murchison Highway. A vehicle in front of them turned right before they turned left, intending to travel to Queenstown. Mr Green was travelling at about 105 km per hour with Mr Kukuljevic, ahead of him and travelling at a slightly faster speed. They held to a slower speed behind a flat tray utility for a distance along the Murchison Highway before both vehicles were able to overtake the utility at a speed of about 120 km per hour. After overtaking, both vehicles returned to the correct lane and the drivers allowed the vehicles to slow at their own rate by "coasting" down the road, rather than braking to 100 km per hour, which was the signposted speed limit on that section of the highway.

Mr Kukuljevic was travelling faster than Mr Green and gradually gained distance in front of him until slowed by another vehicle, allowing Mr Green to close the distance between them. After following this vehicle for a few minutes Mr Kukuljevic pulled out to the other side of the road to overtake. This manoeuvre occurred on a bend in the road and as he drove back in to his side of the road the passenger side tyres travelled from the sealed bitumen section onto the adjacent gravel surface. Mr Green was still behind the vehicle being overtaken when he saw a cloud of dust and that the vehicle in front slowing rapidly. He observed the bushes on the side of the road moving but as he could no longer see Mr Kukuljevic’s car, he stopped his vehicle, as did the driver of the vehicle he had been following.

Mr Kukuljevic lost control of his vehicle after it travelled onto the gravel verge on a right hand curve. His vehicle crossed back over both lanes of the highway before leaving the sealed surface and travelling down a steep seven metre embankment. The vehicle then impacted into several trees.

Mr Green and other persons attempted to assist Mr Kukuljevic and provide first aid to him however this was made difficult as the vehicle was lodged against trees due and the terrain was thick bush on an incline. Mr Kukuljevic’s injuries were severe and no pulse could be located by those trying to assist. He was unable to be removed from the vehicle and when ambulance personnel examined him they confirmed he was deceased.

Tasmania Police have performed a thorough investigation of the incident and examination of the crash scene. Accident Investigation Services personnel have stated in their report, "It appears that the contributing factor in this collision is excessive speed (122km/h) taking into consideration the nature of the road – a right hand curve with an advisory sign of 65 km/h, road markings – double continuous white lines and a vehicle with a high centre of gravity – Toyota 4wd landcruiser wagon".

A post mortem examination was conducted by Forensic Pathologist, Dr Donald Ritchey, who determined cause of death to be multiple blunt traumatic injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash. He further stated in his report that the severe injuries of the neck, thorax and abdomen would have resulted in near instantaneous death. Toxicology of a post mortem blood sample revealed only the presence of a therapeutic level of diazepamso the collision was not attributed to alcohol or drug use.

Findings :

I find that a thorough and comprehensive investigation of this matter has been conducted and that there are no suspicious circumstances in relation to this death.

I agree with the conclusion reached by Dr Ritchey that Mr Kukuljevic died almost certainly instantaneously, due to the serious blunt trauma injuries he sustained in a motor vehicle crash on the Murchison Highway.

I further find that at the time of the accident the road surface was in good condition, visibility was good and climatic conditions were fine and dry. Upon examination the vehicle was found to be in a mechanically sound and roadworthy condition immediately prior to the accident.

The accident resulting in the death of Mr Kukuljevicwas due to the deceased overtaking at speed and losing control of his vehicle.

I am unable to identify any other contributing factors.

I convey my sincere condolences Mr Kukuljevic’s family.

Dated : 22 August 2011 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania.

Chris P Webster