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Coronial Inquest: Death on the Newell Highway

If a person dies under circumstances which are violent, unnatural, suspicious, unusual or where the cause of death is unknown, it is likely that this death will be referred to the State Coroner. However, less than 5% of all deaths referred to the Coroner result in an inquest into the death being held. If the Coroner decides that an inquest is appropriate, an inquest is held with a view to determining all matters in relation to the death that has been referred.

In 2007, two trucks used to transport goods were travelling in opposite directions on the Newell Highway in Northern New South Wales. A tyre on one of the trucks blew, forcing it into the oncoming lane. A head-on collision between the two trucks was unavoidable and a massive fire ensued. Tragically, both drivers were killed.

The deaths of both of these drivers were referred to the State Coroner, and it was determined that these deaths were to be the subject of a joint inquest. The medical causes of the deaths of the drivers were never in issue. The real issue before the Coroner was the cause of the tyre blowout. It was subsequently discovered that the make and model of the tyre that had blown had been the subject of a spate of tyre blowouts in New South Wales and Queensland. Several months after the fatal accident in 2007, this make and model of tyre was the subject of an Australia-wide recall.

There are a number of parties to this inquest and they include the tyre manufacturer, the tyre distributors, the insurer of one of the trucks, and the relatives of both drivers.

BPC Lawyers is representing the relatives of one of the truck drivers that was killed in this accident. The hearing of this inquest began earlier this year and ran for nearly a month. The hearing was not concluded and is to be recommenced in October this year. It is hoped that at the conclusion of the hearing in October, the Deputy State Coroner will be in a position to make a finding as to whether these tragic deaths were avoidable and perhaps make recommendations that would assist in preventing such deaths in the future.

By Caryn Ger