Inquest into the Death of Susanne VAN DER SCHOOT

Inquest into the Death of Susanne VAN DER SCHOOT

Delivered on: 21 April 2016

Delivered at: Perth

Finding of: Deputy State Coroner Vicker

Recommendations: N/A

Orders/Rules: N/A

Suppression Order: N/A

Summary: The deceased was a passenger in the front seat of a vehicle which collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Murray Road and South Coast Highway, Dalyup. The deceased died at the scene.  She was 20 years of age.

The driver of the vehicle in which the deceased was travelling was charged with an offence of dangerous driving occasioning death and appeared in the Esperance District Court. She was acquitted of that charge by a judge and jury.

The deceased and her friend, the driver of the vehicle, were travelling around Australia on a one year Visa. They arrived in the Esperance area on 2 April 2012 and intended to look for employment in the area. They obtained a tourist map from the caravan park and set about seeking employment from the Dalyup River Estate Winery.  On 3 April 2012 the girls drove towards Dalyup River Estate Winery turning off South Coast Highway onto Murray Road, which was an unsealed road and passing the owner of the winery along the way. The owner of the winery advised the court the road conditions on Murray Road required drivers to drive to the road conditions.  He also advised the court the surface of the road despite being unsealed was fairly regularly graded and that, depending on the conditions, speeds of approximately 80km/h were appropriate. He estimated the girls travelling in their vehicle appeared to be travelling of a similar to speed to himself and that there was nothing remarkable about the manner of driving.

After leaving the winery the girls travelled back along the same route which they had previously gone.  Approximately 240 metres before the intersection of Murray Road and South Coast Highway there was a warning sign advising traffic travelling towards the Highway of a stop sign ahead. The warning sign was on the left hand verge and was clearly visible for some distance down Murray Road.  The ‘stop’ sign itself was a regulatory sign which was located on the left verge of Murray Road approximately 9 metres before the intersection itself.  Murray Road continues over the South Coast Highway and becomes Napiers Road.  The ‘stop’ sign was partially obscured by a tree branch at some point between the advisory sign and the ‘stop’ sign.

Witnesses who had gathered at this intersection for the local school bus drop off told the court it appeared the vehicle in which the girls were travelling appeared to make no attempt to stop at the intersection. At the same time as the girls’ vehicle was approaching this intersection, travelling along the South Coast Highway was a Toyota Prado.  Upon seeing the girls vehicle failing to stop at the intersection, the driver braked in a straight line, however was unable to avoid hitting the front and rear passenger side doors of the vehicle.

The court was advised that the intersection between Murray Road and the South Coast Highway has now been closed.

The Deputy State Coroner explored the adequacy of the signage on Murray Road and the visibility of the Highway at the intersection.  The Deputy State Coroner accepted the intersection itself was a difficult intersection but was satisfied the advisory sign was a clear warning for the stop sign which would have been visible at some points between the two signs for a driver looking for it and expecting to stop.

The Deputy State Coroner found the deceased died on 3 April 2012 and death occurred by way of accident.

Catch Words: Regulatory Signs : Discretionary Signage : Accident.

Last updated: 28-Apr-2016

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