Highway deaths inquest continues

THE driver of a truck hauling hoop pine logs to Narangba on the day of a triple fatality on the Bruce Highway near Carlson Road in September 2008 appeared in Gympie Coroners Court yesterday, as the inquest into six highway deaths from three separate crashes continued.

Looking into the crash that claimed the lives of Mark Hamilton, Rachel Purdy and Corey Whitmore on September 4, 2008, Coroner Maxine Baldwin heard evidence from witnesses Daphne Conis from Brisbane and truck driver Ray Hawkins from Curra.

Mr Hawkins, a truck driver for 16 years, said he remembered the rain increasing as he headed into Gympie.

He recalled coming up behind a plywood truck (pantec) somewhere around the Matilda Service Station (at Kybong) and that he was “not going very quick... he was driving fine, he was safe… we was doing 95 I suppose… I stayed behind him…”

As he came over the brow of a hill (near Carlson Road) Mr Hawkins said he saw the pantec brake.

“…I know I was back a fair distance and there was a fair bit of road spray” and then he saw the Isuzu pantec “more or less going down the road completely sideways” and heading toward the northbound lane.

In shock, he said he recalled seeing a Falcon and another vehicle coming the other way but was concentrating on what was happening in front of him.

Asked how much time elapsed between seeing the pantec’s brake lights and the “explosion”, and Mr Hawkins replied “a few seconds”.

“To me the impact come before the explosion,” he said. “I stood on the brakes, I couldn’t do anything to stop…”

Fearing his truck would jack-knife, he released pressure, attempting to keep control of his vehicle as the pantec “bounced” toward him.

“I just thought I was going to die that day – that was the end of it for me…”

Witness Daphne Conis had been heading northbound in front of Ms Purvey’s sedan and told the court how she felt a sense of relief when she saw a blue car pull in behind her after previously looking in her rear vision mirror to see the “grill” of a truck, which had been, in her opinion, too close for comfort.

The inclement weather that day was described by her as “raining… cats and dogs”.

“They (the blue car) weren’t tailgating me or anything, they were back a distance…”

She described to the court that she was concentrating on driving when “the next thing I felt this heavy thud… and I just looked around, nothing seemed to be in my way…”

She said she had no idea what happened so proceeded to pull off the road. At this point she looked in her rear vision mirror.

An emotional Ms Conis then recalled seeing “this gentleman trying to control a vehicle… the vehicle seemed to be sliding… but then I saw it hit and ignite and disintegrate and debris flying and things caught fire…”

The inquest continues.

Gympie Times

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