News

Coroner faults builders, welders, engineers and surveyors

CHATSWORTH father Steve Raabe has finally achieved all the justice he can for his son Craig, killed in 2007, when Category 5 Cyclone George tore across the West Australian coastline.

A coroner has now found that human incompetence, to a point that "beggars belief", was what killed Craig Raabe, and not just the most destructive cyclone to hit the Pilbara in more than 30 years.

Coroner Ros Fogliani blamed inattention by almost everyone associated with the building, planning and approval of buildings which had been built to the wrong specifications and had no chance of withstanding the storm.

"This inquest highlighted the danger to public safety when construction compliance fails and gives way to expediency," she said.

Ms Fogliani ruled that Debra Till and Craig Raabe would have survived the cyclone if not for repeated errors by the people who designed, built and approved their dongas on the Fortescue Metals rail camp where they worked.

The dongas were built to an inadequate and mistakenly applied wind rating and suffered from structural deficiencies.

"These arose by reason of a series of errors made by persons who had the knowledge and/or means to avoid them, had they applied proper standards of care and attention to the task at hand."

Coroner Ros Fogliani found that shelter provided for Craig Raabe and his fellow victim Debra Till was fatally inadequate, due to the inadequate performance of builders, welders, engineers and surveyors in charge of camp construction.

An earlier inquest had found that the camp was built to the wrong wind rating - a standard which prescribes the strength of wind buildings must be able to withstand.

The temporary accommodation had no chance of withstanding the storm, she ruled.

Mr Raabe was an excavator operator at the camp and Ms Till was a kitchen hand at the camp, which housed employees working on Fortescue's remote rail line between the Cloudbreak mine and Port Hedland.

Cyclone George blew away Ms Till's donga, killing her instantly.

Mr Raabe's donga flipped on to its roof and Mr Raabe died in hospital from head injuries.

"It beggars belief," Ms Fogliani found, "that persons responsible for the design, building and licence approval kept making, essentially the same error regarding the wind region.

"The result was that dongas designed and constructed for a non-cyclonic wind region were built in a cyclonic wind region.

"Shortly after they were completed, a number were destroyed by Cyclone George."

She criticised local government approval processes and the application of wind rating rules, as well as building procedures.

"The fatal injuries suffered by Ms Till and Mr Raabe as a consequence of their dongas being destroyed were preventable," she said.

Mr Steve Raabe said the mine owner was cleared of any wrongdoing and mines were found to be exempt from the OHS Act.

Gympie Times

Topics:  coastline coroner



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