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Lack of written records hobbled investigation into fatal truck crash

Chain of responsibility investigation identified potential offenders, but the RMS could not prosecute them.


Parties involved in the transport of steel girders that led to the death of Leonie Darling potentially avoided prosecution under chain of responsibility (COR) because investigators could not establish a paperwork trail.

Darling died when a load of steel girders slid from a Robbie Walker Transport truck in 2011 and collided with her car near Bathurst in New South Wales.

The trucking company and its owner, Robert John Walker, were convicted and fined, along with KGB Protective Coatings, which was responsible for loading the truck and used untrained staff to do the job.

Truck driver Basil White was charged with dangerous driving occasioning death, driving in a dangerous manner and manslaughter by criminal negligence and was found not guilty.

The NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) launched a COR investigation after the incident and prosecuted Walker, his trucking company and KGB for load restraint breaches.

It identified six parties – including those charged – involved in the transport of the girders.

“The transport of the steel girders had been arranged through a chain of phone calls and subcontractors. There was no process of induction or communication to confirm the skills and experience of the final subcontractor and driver. There was nothing done to confirm how the load was to be restrained. There was no planning for the driver to take a rest break,” the RMS says.

“In the absence of any written agreement or other transport or journey documents, it was not possible to identify whether the conduct of other parties contributed to the load restraint failure.”

The RMS says a separate consignee and two other transport businesses subcontracted the work or referred the job on.

“There was no communication about the nature of the load, its restraint or the time available for its delivery,” it says.

The RMS says there should have been greater effort to ensure the load was restrained properly and that correct dunnage was used to prevent the load from shifting.

KGB used dunnage to support the load but it was defective and compressed during transit, causing the girder to slide off the truck.

Robbie Walker Transport supplied the dunnage but did not know it was defective.

“The police clearly formed the opinion the driver was reckless, charging him with manslaughter,” the RMS says.

“The driver was not the only person who could have done more to prevent this crash.”

KGB was fined $18,150 and ordered to pay $25,000 to the RMS in court costs.

Robbie Walker Transport was fined $16,500, while Walker was fined $900. The company and Walker were ordered to pay the RMS $20,000 in court costs.

You can read the full story in the October edition of Owner//Driver.

Photography: Steve Skinner

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