AIRBORNE: ‘They were thrown about inside the bus’
The ill-fated Whitsunday Transit bus was briefly airborne after slamming into a raised dirt driveway before it rolled, flinging Proserpine teen Casey Stinson-Brown and 10 others from their seats, a Mackay court heard.
Mr Stinson-Brown, 19, had been sitting in the second last row on the driver's side when the route bus, heading to Proserpine, left the road about 1pm and travelled just under 100 metres along a grassed culvert.
Images from the February 16, 2016 fatal bus crash were displayed in Mackay Coroners Court showing deep tyre tracks that stop at a driveway.
Lead forensic crash investigator Senior Constable Mark Siddall, who gave evidence on Tuesday, said this was because when the bus struck the raised driveway it became airborne before landing hard and damaging the sealed roadway shoulder.
While that section of Shute Harbour Road was described as straight and undamaged, the grassy culvert where the bus ultimately ended lay about half a metre lower than the roadway.
The court heard police investigations into the crash found when the bus landed, it tilted to the left and rolled.
Council Assisting the Coroner John Aberdeen said most of the passengers, including Mr Stinson-Brown, and the driver Alan Dorman were flung from their seats.
"They were thrown about inside the bus," Mr Aberdeen told the court.
This included a couple of young ladies who were seated with a pram in the disability seating area, the court heard.
"They were all thrown some distance and one of them ended up at the front of the bus near the driver," Mr Aberdeen said.
Mr Stinson-Brown was thrown upwards before he was "projected into the wall of the bus" opposite to where he was sitting, fatally striking his head.
The court was closed as CCTV footage from cameras inside the bus that captured the tragedy was played.
The bus, which had been travelling about 80km/h on a sealed rural road when the crash occurred, was not required to be fitted with seat belts.
The was a disability seating area and also capacity for standing passengers.
Among the list of issues Coroner David O'Connell will explore include how and why the bus left the road and whether Mr Brown's death could have been prevented had there been seat belts or if the bus had been travelling at a slower speed.
The inquest will look at whether or not the State Government should make seat belts mandatory on all route buses.
Mr O'Connell questioned Sen Const Siddall about the fatal five, specifically if seat belts were identified as something that reduced injuries or saved lives in serious crashes.
"I believe so," Sen Const Siddall said.
"And that's considered a well recognised fact?" Mr O'Connell ask.
"Yes," Sen Const Siddall said.
The court heard Mackay Forensic Crash Senior Constable Aaron Webster, who also gave evidence had been tasked by the coroner to compile data and information in relation to fitting seat belts to a route bus, including speaking to Bus Tech - the manufacturer of the bus involved in the fatal crash.
Barrister Guy Hampson, acting for Whitsunday Transit, questioned whether or not disability standards for route buses had been a focus of the investigation.
Sen Const Webster said that had not been what he was asked to do.
"Were you at any time during your investigations made aware of contractual obligations of route service bus operators in their contracts with Queensland Government?" Mr Hampson said.
Sen Const Webster said it became apparent during his research but it had not been a focus of his investigation.
Mr Hampson asked the officer whether or not, while speaking with Bus Tech, anyone had advised if fitting a bus with seatbelt compliant seats would be contrary to disability guidelines.
Sen Const Webster said it was what he was tasked with, but he had received information in relation to a bus similar to the one that crashed, which had been fitted with seatbelts.
Sen Const Webster said there were removable seats to allow for a wheelchair.
Mr Hampson queried the process of removing the seats including how long it would take, where it would be stored and how the bus would be secured when the seats were stored.
Sen Const Webster said the process was not explained to him as the information he received was in relation to a bus similar to the one that crashed that had been fitted with seatbelts.
The inquest continues.