A cocktail of drugs, a heavy vehicle and a load of highly flammable materials resulted in a tragic and fiery crash on the highway near Kew in 2014 which killed two people, an inquiry has found.
On April 10, 2014 emergency services were called to the site of a B-double crash at Herons Creek. The truck was well alight.
Deputy State Coroner Magistrate Elizabeth Ryan last week released her findings into this accident and the deaths of Meaghan Baird and Cameron Bloomfield, both of Queensland.
"The crash which took the lives of these two people was shocking in its circumstances," Magistrate Ryan said.
"And it has left parents, brothers and sisters, and children grieving the loss of their beloved family members."
The inquiry heard Ms Baird and Mr Bloomfield were travelling from Sydney to Brisbane in a prime mover with two fully laden combination trailers (B-double).
There was evidence that Mr Bloomfield, who was likely the driver, and Ms Baird had ingested a significant amount of methylamphetamine within hours of the crash. Expert opinion described the level of the drug in their blood as in the "toxic to lethal range".
There was also some evidence that Mr Bloomfield was fatigued.
The crash which took the lives of these two people was shocking in its circumstances. And it has left parents, brothers and sisters, and children grieving the loss of their beloved family members.Deputy State Coroner Magistrate Elizabeth Ryan
The inquest examined what role drugs and fatigue played in the fatal accident and whether there was need for changes to the regulation of long haul trucking operations which use heavy vehicles.
The inquest heard Mr Bloomfield was a father of four. He was in a relationship with Ms Baird.
About a week before the fatal crash, the inquest heard Ms Baird's parents visited her in Ipswich and Ms Baird spoke with her mother about her fears Mr Bloomfield was so exhausted he might fall asleep at the wheel. Ms Baird told her parents she had obtained her heavy vehicle licence so she could help Mr Bloomfield on trips.
On the night of April 8, 2014 Mr Bloomfield, accompanied by Ms Baird, commenced a long haul return journey from the Brisbane depot of Archerfield Transport and Storage to Sydney. They arrived in Sydney early on April 9.
The inquest heard that during that day Mr Bloomfield was contacted several times by his boss during what was supposed to be his seven hour continuous rest break.
The pair commenced the return trip to Brisbane about 8.30pm. The prime mover was towing two fully laden trailers containing corrosives, paint thinners and other flammable and hazardous materials.
The accident happened soon after 3am on the highway just north of Kew. A witness reported the B-double overtook his car just before the B-double travelled off the road on the left hand side, fell to its side and slid.
The witness said the cabin was fully on fire which quickly spread to the trailers, making it impossible to approach.
When police arrived the cabin and trailers were engulfed in flames, the heat was intense and aerosol cans from the load were exploding. Forensic examiners concluded the entire vehicle had fallen onto the driver's side and had caught on fire, incinerating its occupants and most of the vehicle itself.
There was no evidence of braking or sharp turning on the road surface and forensic examiners were unable to determine who was driving at the time.
Forensic pathologist Dr Jane Vuletic found Ms Baird died of head injuries, with a significant contributing condition of methylamphetamine toxicity. Dr Vuletic concluded that Mr Bloomfield died as a result of the effects of the fire, most probably smoke inhalation.
Specialist physician and clinical toxicologist Professor Alison Jones said the levels of methylamphetamine could have contributed to the crash by impairing the driver's ability, or causing the driver's death by coma, respiratory depression or fatal cardiac arrhythmia.
The coroner was unable to determine who was driving at the time of the crash, but Michael Griffiths, a bio-medical and mechanical engineer specialising in vehicle safety research and crash investigation, concluded it was likely Mr Bloomfield was behind the wheel.
Magistrate Ryan said the evidence supported the conclusion that the level of drug in Mr Bloomfield's blood provided an explanation for his apparent loss of control of the vehicle.
Magistrate Ryan was unable to find that fatigue played a role.
In 2016, the NSW Roads and Maritime Service commenced road transport 'chain of responsibility' prosecutions of a number of people and corporations, arising out of this accident. All parties received convictions and fines for their offences.
Magistrate Ryan did not make any recommendations to change the Heavy Vehicle National Law.