Death wobble crane tragedy: coroner calls for speed limits

11th October 2017 3:11 PM
John Leonardi, who lost his wife and son in the fatal crash, has welcomed Coroner Hutton's findings and recommendations. John Leonardi, who lost his wife and son in the fatal crash, has welcomed Coroner Hutton's findings and recommendations. John Weekes

SAM Leonardi was taking her three children to school when an out of control mobile crane collided with her car.

She and her six-year-old son Samuel lost their lives after that September 2013 crash.

Now, in findings Sam's husband John has welcomed, Coroner John Hutton says urgent, nationwide action is needed to put public safety first and try to prevent another tragedy.

"The whole characteristics of the cranes are completely different from other vehicles," Mr Leonardi said at Brisbane Coroners Court.

NOT FORGOTTEN: Christine (Sam) Leonardi and Samuel John Leonardi.
NOT FORGOTTEN: Christine (Sam) Leonardi and Samuel John Leonardi. Contributed

Mr Leonardi, of Toowoomba, said there were clearly safety issues with the articulated-steering cranes, "otherwise we wouldn't be standing in this court today".

He said his "main hope now" was for industry players to ensure changes were made.

Mr Leonardi said on Wednesday he was unimpressed so far with crane manufacturer Terex, manufacturer of the Franna AT20 crane that collided with the car Sam was driving.

"It's like they put financial gain above any person's life."

Releasing his findings into the Toowoomba crash, Mr Hutton said a fatal accident could happen on a highway or in a built-up area.

"My fear and concern is that a similar incident could quite easily repeat itself on a larger scale," Mr Hutton said in Brisbane on Wednesday.

"It's my view that these machines need to be speed limited to 60kmh and taken off high speed roads and highways."

The 60kmh speed limit should stay until electronic stabilising control systems are developed and fitted to articulated-steering cranes, he added.

The coroner also said the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator needed to change its attitude.

"I'm concerned that the regulator appears to be placing more emphasis on the interests of the industry over public safety, which is shocking to say the least."

States and territories must work together to improve the mobile crane safety situation, he said.

"Their danger does not stop at the borders of Queensland."

The "death wobble" which the inquest heard happened when these cranes lost control was a major problem, even for experienced drivers, Mr Hutton said.

"I sincerely hope that the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will reflect upon my comments before another tragedy emerges, and that they will urgently reconsider their position."

He also made recommendations to Safe Work Australia, all road regulators in Australia, the National Transport Commission and Terex.

He urged Terex to develop electronic stability control systems, and to amend owners' manuals to give guidance advice on the cranes' "unique handling characteristics".

The coroner said he expected "some resistance" from Terex to his recommendations.

Mr Hutton said Toowoomba Forensic Crash Unit did a "thorough and professional" police investigation after the crash, and obtained expert reports from forensic engineering consultants.

Terex and the NHVR were approached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

Christine Leonardi, who was known as Sam, was formerly of Stanthorpe. She moved with John to Toowoomba in 1999.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

* A 60kmh limit until stability control systems are fitted to articulated-steering cranes.

* The NHVR to conduct independent tests of the cranes to see what "inherent lateral stability issues" must be fixed.

* The National Transport Commission to ensure drivers get a practical test on a public road before they can drive the cranes.

* SafeWork Australia to amend licensing schemes for the cranes.

-NewsRegional