Fireball: The tanker crash that claimed two lives in Mona Vale. Photo: Tim Pascoe Mona Vale crash: A driver and a passenger in another vehicle were killed in the explosion and five others were injured. Photo: Ben Rushton
Crucial re-enactment evidence in the case of a fatal truck crash on Sydney’s northern beaches was entirely funded by Cootes Transport, the employer of the truck driver facing multiple charges over the crash in which two people were killed.
Truck driver Shane Day, 47, is facing charges including dangerous driving occasioning death, after the tanker he was driving crashed and exploded in Mona Vale in October, 2013. A driver and a passenger in another vehicle were killed in the huge explosion and five others were injured.
Mr Day’s committal hearing in the Downing Centre Local Court court was told on Wednesday that, at the time of impact, Mr Day was travelling at 96k/h in a 70km/h zone.
The officer in charge of investigating the crash, Senior Constable Trent Wheeler, also said that there was evidence that the gear Mr Day was driving in was too high for the steep gradient of the hill he was travelling on when the crash occurred.
However, while Senior Constable Wheeler was under cross examination by Mr Day’s solicitor, Dennis Moralis, it emerged that a re-enactment of the accident that forms crucial evidence in the case was entirely funded by Cootes Transport, the company which employed Mr Day.
Cootes was subsequently convicted of hundreds of road safety breaches and fined $500,000. The truck used in the re-enactment of Mr Day’s crash was 8 tonnes lighter than the one involved in the accident, the court heard.
It also had fewer axles than the vehicle involved in the accident and did not feature worn brakes, as Mr Day’s truck did. “Wouldn’t it be appropriate for the re-enactment to have been conducted by someone unconnected to [the incident]?” Mr Moralis asked.
The solicitor further questioned whether such a test was “objective”. Senior Constable Wheeler said he had been investigating the “driver, not the company”.
He also agreed that he had been under pressure from more senior officers to arrest and charge Mr Day quickly.
Later, the court heard that all of the brake drums on Mr Day’s tanker were ready or overdue for service and that a number of the brake shoes on the truck were out of alignment.
Collision analyst John Ruller told the court that the brake defects would have had a significant impact on Mr Day’s ability to brake as he drove down the steep downward slope immediately before the accident took place.
Under cross-examination, Mr Ruller accepted that this “may” have caused the accident.
However, he later said that he believed the main causes were “human factors”, most notably the speed with which Mr Day arrived at the slope and his failure to change into a lower gear.
The hearing continues.