Tasmanian driver who killed road worker tells inquest there was only one warning sign


Posted

October 22, 2018 18:01:08

A Tasmanian driver who struck and killed a road worker while adjusting his radio insists he did not see more than one roadworks warning sign, a Launceston inquest has heard.

Terrence William Close, 62, was directing traffic along Vermont Road at Mowbray on February 5, 2013, when he died.

A coronial inquest into his death began in the Launceston Magistrates Court on Monday with about a dozen witnesses expected to give evidence over three days.

Driver Murray Higgs, of Mayfield, who previously pleaded guilty to Mr Close’s death by negligent driving, told the inquest he drove along Vermont Road earlier at 9:00am en route to a friend’s house at St Leonards.

He said roadworks were being undertaken on Wildor Cresent, which turns into Vermont Road.

“There was trucks … and there were people everywhere,” he said.

Mr Higgs said on his return trip he saw one sign before reaching the roadworks on Wildor Cresent but did not see any other signs or road workers.

“I just took it as they were finished and gone,” he said.

Several hundred metres along Vermont Road, Mr Higgs’ vehicle struck Mr Close, who was “standing in the middle of the lane”, Mr Higgs said.

The court heard Mr Higgs was adjusting his radio at the time.

“If there would have been a sign or a witches’ hat, anything, I would have snapped out of it [fixing the radio],” Mr Higgs said.

“There was nothing anywhere.

“If I had of had more time. I would have been able to swerve. Instead of swerving, I hit the brakes and I shouldn’t have done that.”

Mr Close’s employer, Altus Traffic, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with health and safety duties in relation to his death and was fined $250,000 last year.

‘That sign was not there’

Venarchie Contracting was also charged with the same offence but the charge was dismissed following a hearing.

The company’s lawyer, Andrew Halse, showed Mr Higgs several pictures of roadwork signs and asked if he remembered seeing any other signs besides the initial one.

Mr Higgs replied: “That sign was not there.”

“Do you accept that it was there, but you didn’t see it?” Mr Halse asked.

“No, it wasn’t there,” Mr Higgs said.

Counsel assisting the coroner Leigh Mackey questioned former Venarchie Contracting employee John Vanzon, who was working with Mr Close the day of his death, about potential safety improvements at roadwork sites.

Ms Mackey asked whether shadow vehicles — a moving truck spaced a short distance from roadwork operations to alert drivers and protect workers — could be used at Tasmanian roadwork sites.

Mr Vanzon said they could, but they would have to be a “fair bit behind” operations to ensure road resealing work was not damaged and traffic controllers could see oncoming traffic.

“You couldn’t have a shadow vehicle on the other side of the traffic controller, as then you wouldn’t be able to see the traffic controller,” he said.

Mr Vanzon told the court he was not aware of any legal requirements that made it mandatory for multiple “roadwork ahead” signs to be placed leading up to a roadwork site.

Forty-kilometre-per-hour signs are required to be no more than 500 metres from roadwork sites in Tasmania.

Topics:

courts-and-trials,

law-crime-and-justice,

death,

community-and-society,

launceston-7250,

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