Horror story at road deaths probe

SEVEN terrifying vehicle impacts and one fatal explosion were the deadly elements of the crash which killed Mark Hamilton, Rachel Purdy and Cory Whitmore on the Bruce Highway near Carlson Road on September 4, 2008, Gympie Coroners Court has been told.

Counsel assisting, Andrew Wallace, told the Coroner that Ms Purdy, 31, was 17 weeks pregnant at the time of the crash.

Evidence being presented at the inquest indicates the smash was an example of what can happen on a crowded highway, even when only one thing goes wrong.

Gympie Coroner Maxine Baldwin is inquiring into six deaths, from three separate crashes on a 14.5km stretch of the Bruce Highway, south of Gympie, all in wet weather and over a 12-month period.

The first caused the deaths of Glen and Moira McGreevy, about 70m south of Coles Creek Road.

It occurred at 11.10am on January 30, 2008, as the couple drove towards Gympie on the sweeping left hand bend near the right turning lane.

A witness said he saw their car’s rear slide across the centre line, over-correct and slide sideways into the path of a second vehicle, which drove the wreckage 61.7m back to the south.

The roadway was surfaced with stone mastic asphalt.

Mr Wallace also told Ms Baldwin of the complex sequence of events underlying the second crash, which claimed the lives of Mr Hamilton, Ms Purdy and Mr Whitmore.

It involved three heavy vehicles, two cars and “seven identified vehicle impacts,” he said.

Daphne Conis, 70, escaped injury and suffered only minor damage to her car when it was clipped by Mr Hamilton’s southbound white Isuzu truck, which was transporting plywood.

Witnesses said the truck had been travelling downhill when its brakes were applied, causing its rear to slide out and clip Ms Conis’ Suzuki Swift.

The third vehicle was a blue Ford Falcon driven by Ms Purdy, with Mr Whitmore as passenger.

The Isuzu had slid out and was almost completely sideways in their path. The Falcon slid under the truck’s tray and into its fuel tank, causing a large explosion, which incinerated the couple.

The truck pushed their Falcon backwards into a Scania B-Double, inflicting a fractured foot on its driver.

He was hauling two 15-tonne solid steel mill rollers, one of which came partly loose, adding to the chaos and impact.

Mr Hamilton, who died of multiple injuries, was thrown from the driver’s seat onto the highway’s grass shoulders, even though his seat belt was still locked when inspected by police.

The Isuzu then crashed into the Falcon again, launching it into the air and driving one of the truck’s wheels into its bonnet and windscreen.

The fifth vehicle was a Kenworth semi-trailer, carrying 24.6 tonnes of hoop pine. It had extensive damage, but its driver escaped physical injury. Its bullbar ripped the roof off the Isuzu.

The Isuzu showed no defects and extensive fire damage made inspection of the Falcon impossible.

The B-Double and the Kenworth had unsatisfactorily adjusted brakes but an engineer had said their brakes still would have performed normally.

That accident happened about 12.5km south of the third one, which claimed the life of South Korean visitor Sanglin Chung on January 25, 2009.

Chung was the first person to be killed on the highway after the introduction of the new 90kmh speed limit.

Gympie Times

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