Record of Investigation Into Death (Without Inquest)
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
I, Rod Chandler, Coroner, having investigated the death of
WITHOUT HOLDING AN INQUEST
Find That :
(a) Anna Palecek ("Mrs Palecek") died on 28 January 2010 at the Royal Hobart Hospital ("The Royal") in Hobart.
(b) Mrs Palecek was born in Czechoslovakia on 26 December 1931 and migrated to Australia in or around 1945. She was a widow and retired.
(c) Mrs Palecek died of multiple blunt traumatic injures when, as a pedestrian, she was struck by a car.
Circumstances Surrounding the Death :
On 28 January 2010 Mrs Palecek was walking her dog along the pedestrian/cycle track on the river side of Montrose Bay between the Derwent Entertainment Centre and Rosetta High School. Mrs Palecek’s dog was tethered by a collar and lead.
At approximately 1.35pm Mrs Palecek and her dog commenced to cross the Brooker Highway near the Derwent Entertainment Centre. She utilised a light-controlled pedestrian crossing and was walking from east to west. In this area the Highway comprises two southbound lanes and three northbound lanes.
At the same time Ms Maria Giray ("Ms Giray") was driving her 2007 Suzuki hatch, reg’d. no. FN 8938 ("the Suzuki") in a northerly direction on the Brooker Highway in the western most slip lane. There were other vehicles both in front of her, and to her right in the two adjoining lanes. The position of the other vehicles caused Ms Giray to have diminished vision of objects that may have been on the roadway in front of her and to her right.
South of the pedestrian crossing a green Hyundai Excel vehicle travelling in the middle northbound lane decreased its speed. As it did so the Suzuki commenced to overtake it, still travelling in the western most slip lane. At this moment Mrs Palecek and her dog walked into the slip lane directly into the path of the Suzuki. Despite Ms Giray attempting to take evasive action by braking and swerving a collision occurred with both Mrs Palecek and her dog being struck by the Suzuki. Evidence shows that the point of impact was within the pedestrian crossing portion of the western-most northbound lane. Both Mrs Palecek and her dog came to rest on the roadway approximately eighteen metres north of the point of impact.
Two off duty nurses, Ms Kym Self and Ms Jessica Newett and an off-duty police officer, Constable Holly Dillon were able to administer CPR to Mrs Palecek at the scene prior to the arrival of ambulance personnel. Mrs Palecek was then taken to the RHH by ambulance. Resuscitation efforts were maintained but Mrs Palecek failed to respond. All supportive therapy was withdrawn and she died at 3.29pm.
A post-mortem examination was conducted by Forensic Pathologist, Dr Donald Ritchey. In his opinion the cause of Mrs Palecek’s death was multiple blunt traumatic injuries sustained when, as a pedestrian, she was struck by car.
Toxicology testing from a post-mortem blood sample revealed ‘no apparent significant toxicology.’
An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash was undertaken by Tasmania Police. Its salient findings are that:
At the time of the crash the weather was fine and the road surface was dry. Neither the weather nor the road conditions contributed to the crash.
The permitted speed in the area of the crash was 80kph. The Suzuki was being driven within this speed.
The width of the Brooker Highway in the area of the crash is 23.5 metres. Testing of the pedestrian crossing lights show that once activated the lights facing both northbound and southbound traffic remain red for a period of 32 seconds. During this period the flashing green signal operates for 8 seconds followed by a flashing red ‘don’t walk’ signal for 15 seconds and then a steady ‘don’t walk’ signal for the balance 9 seconds.
Studies of walking speeds indicate the average walking speed for older female pedestrians is 3.89 feet or 1.18 metres per second. On this basis Mrs Palecek could have been expected to have required approximately 20 seconds to fully cross the Highway’s 23.5 metres.
The walk cycle set by the pedestrian crossing lights in the area of the crash gives pedestrians adequate time to cross the highway prior to the traffic lights turning green.
Ms Giray’s view of the pedestrian crossing and any person utilising it by walking from east to west would have been greatly reduced by any northbound vehicles which were travelling alongside or slightly ahead of her vehicle.
Neither alcohol nor drugs were factors which contributed to the crash.
The Suzuki was examined by Transport Inspectors who found it to be in a roadworthy condition prior to the crash.
Ms Giray was a fully licensed driver.
Findings and Comments :
I am satisfied that a thorough and detailed investigation has occurred into the death of Mrs Palecek and that there are no suspicious circumstances.
I accept the opinion of Dr Ritchie as to the cause of Mrs Palecek’s death.
The evidence indicates and I so find that the traffic lights controlling the pedestrian crossing in the area of the crash were showing green for all northbound and southbound traffic at the time of the crash. It follows that at this time Mrs Palecek was attempting to cross the northbound lanes of the Brooker Highway when the pedestrian light was displaying the ‘don’t walk’ signal. This indicates that at the time Mrs Palecek began to cross the Highway from its eastern boundary she either elected not to utilise the pedestrian lights at all or that when she did so they had passed from their flashing green ‘walk’ signal. It was in these circumstances that Mrs Palecek’s own actions were causative of this tragedy.
There is not any evidence to indicate that the driving of Ms Giray was a factor which contributed in any way to the crash.
I wish to commend Ms Self, Ms Newett and Constable Dillon for their actions in administering first aid to Mrs Palecek at the scene of the crash.
I conclude by conveying my sincere condolences to Mrs Palecek’s family.
DATED: Thursday 21 April 2011 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania.