A Victorian mechanics business has been convicted and fined $210,000 after a petrol tanker detached from a truck and killed three people including a four-year-old.
Heavy Mechanics Pty Ltd serviced the truck and trailer a week before it came loose and struck two vehicles on the opposite side of the road, killing Peta Cox, 67, as well as Lisa Turner, 33, and her four-year-old son Jack near Wodonga in August 2014.
The company on Wednesday faced the Victorian County Court, where Judge George Georgiou said the crash left a “deep and profound” impact on the victims’ families.
Ms Turner’s partner Damien Wallace frantically called her when he heard about a crash in the area but had to wait five hours before he learned she and their son Jack were killed.
Mr Wallace has since then been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety and has been unable to work.
“He does not think he will ever be OK or the same person he was before the incident,” Judge Georgiou told the court.
Ms Turner’s mother Irma has been diagnosed with complex bereavement disorder.
“There is absolutely nothing that can ever compare with the grief of losing a child and a grandchild,” Irma Turner said.
Ms Turner’s father Gerald said the pain of losing Lisa and Jack would stay with him for the rest of his life.
“What makes it hard is the knowledge that what occurred was simply not an accident,” Gerald Turner said.
Mr Wallace’s mother Elizabeth told the court she didn’t just lose her daughter-in-law and grandson that day, but also her own son Damien.
Judge Georgiou said Heavy Mechanics showed “no remorse” because it had not pleaded guilty to one count of failing as an employer to ensure other people were not exposed to safety risks.
He said the trailer came loose because of wear to its bolt-in tow-eye coupling, and the truck and trailer had driven about 354,000 kilometres since the part was last replaced in June 2011.
“The company failed to adopt a system of servicing the coupling,”Judge Georgiou said.
“The coupling needed to be replaced.”
Court documents show two Heavy Mechanics employees serviced the truck and trailer a week before the crash.
The pair marked as complete the requirement to “check and report on the tow couplings (turntable and king pin) split and inspect”.
They performed a tug test and stated the coupling did not reveal anything that required immediate action.
One of them said no wear was sighted on the inspection and the “whole tow hitch looked to be in normal working order”.
However, prosecutor Andrew Palmer said the Heavy Mechanics employees failed to detach the prime-mover from the trailer and properly inspect the tow-eye coupling.