Truckie on trial over Mt Larcom 2014 fatal crash

A JURY has heard a truck driver was not allowed on his own trailer to inspect a load pre-packed by Bechtel employees ahead of a long haul that ended in the death of two Chinese tourists.

Xinzi Che and Man Tat Sze died when a 1.88 tonne steel pipe fell from a truck and smashed into their car on the Bruce Highway at Mt Larcom in the early hours of December 6, 2014.

Truck driver David Walter Neil Cox has pleaded not guilty to a charge of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death and his trial started yesterday in Rockhampton District Court.

Three workers gave evidence about how a load was secured onto Mr Cox's trailer at the Bechtel site before the large steel pipe became loose and crashed into a sedan the tourists were travelling in.

Each of the three men played a role in the loading of a 13-tonne green steel frame and two 1.88 tonne pipes onto Mr Cox's trailer - the green steel frame along the bottom of the trailer, both steel pipes on top of the green frame with one near the cabin and one at the end of the trailer.

The court heard the load was one of 400 that travelled between Hay Point and Toowoomba after Wagners bought a walking bridge from Bechtel and it was transported in pieces by subcontract truck drivers.

A rigger, a crane operator and a workplace supervisor working at the Bechtel sites told the court straps seen on the pipe near the prime mover were the property of Bechtel and were only used to safely move the load around the Hay Point site.

Each told the court it was part of Bechtel's safety policy that drivers were not allowed on top of loads, but that there was a device available that could lift drivers up to check loads.

Defence barrister James Godbolt suggested to all of them that no one told Mr Cox about this device and that he was only informed of the 'no getting on top' rule after he started to climb up.

Questions were also raised about why only one wooden cradle was used instead of two to support the pipes. The court heard one flat piece of timber was used in place of the second cradle underneath each of the steel pipes, with the pipes tilting to the centre of the trailer. The straps in question then criss-crossed over the pipes.

Each man said the pipes were too heavy for a single person to lift and they were placed on top of the green frame with a crane.

Mr Godbolt also suggested no one told Mr Cox the straps were only placed in such a way to safely manoeuvre the load around the work site, not for a long-haul journey.

Each witness said Mr Cox had been told the safety rules in relation to being on top of loads, but two couldn't recall who told Mr Cox about them.

It came to light during the supervisor's evidence that the alleged discussion between him and Mr Cox about the straps was not in the Bechtel Workplace Health and Safety report dated two days after the fatal crash, nor in the supervisor's statement to police on March 21, 2015.

William Victor Webb, the supervisor, told the court it was his role to meet truck drivers off site, check off items on a two-page document including informing the driver about safety rules via verbal or head nod confirmation, escort the truck to the relevant part of the site, sign off with the driver the load was secure and escort the truck off site again.

However, the court heard that on the day Mr Cox came to get this load, Mr Webb needed to catch a bus off the worksite back to Mackay and left the off-site escort with another supervisor.

Mr Webb said the last point on the two-page document that needed to be ticked - where the driver agreed the load was secure and there were dot points reminders of straps, chains and other items - was ticked off "Yes" straight after the driver saw the load on the ground and before it was on the trailer.

Mr Webb only revealed for the first time in court yesterday that it was he who allegedly had the conversation with Mr Cox about the walkway device that would have assisted the truck driver to see on top of his load.

He admitted, at the time he made the statements to WHS and police, his mind 'was not 100% focused on the job' as his second marriage was in trouble.

The court heard the steel frame and pipes had been prepared days before Mr Cox arrived, with Mr Webb involved in the decisions to use one cradle and criss-cross the straps.

Mr Webb said once the load was on the trailer, it was the responsibility of the truck driver.

The trial continues today.



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