Deaths take toll on first responders

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser
The Halls Haulage truck, pictured at the Albany Highway yard, was written off after the fatal crash.
Camera IconThe Halls Haulage truck, pictured at the Albany Highway yard, was written off after the fatal crash. Credit: Laurie Benson

A tiny green pin indicates a fatal crash on a map on the wall of the office of Great Southern police Superintendent Dom Wood.

The container of pins nearby is close to being empty.

The latest fatal crash, when two 19-year-old German men died in a head-on smash with a road train in Gairdner on Monday afternoon, ticked the region’s road toll past 30 for the year.

No clear trends emerge as police continue to crunch the numbers and analyse each crash, frustrated that the deaths were avoidable and so often down to human error.

Was there evidence of speed, alcohol, seatbelts being worn, fatigue, inattention or distraction from mobile phone use?

These are the questions asked.

The district has had more deaths than any other region, ahead of the South West and Peel.

The total of 31 deaths so far in 2016 is double last year’s road toll, when 15 people lost their lives.

Supt Wood said the current run of eight fatal crashes in an eight- week period since October 19 had left police frustrated after four fatality-free months between June and October.

In a police district which covers as far north as Corrigin and Brookton, east to Ravensthorpe and west to Walpole, the deaths have been scattered, but most have occurred in 110km/h zones.

Police say there has not been much evidence of excessive speed or mobile phone use, but suspect some form of distraction has played a role, as has fatigue.

Supt Wood said police suspected inattention played a role in the Germans’ Hyundai Elantra crossing onto the wrong side of South Coast Highway and colliding head-on with the road train.

It was the second double fatal-ity in the region in four days after a 21-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl died near Wave Rock on Frid-ay.

Supt Wood, who attended the crash in Gairdner to relieve some of his officers, said the constant road deaths were taking their toll the officers who attended them.

“We will be looking to get the police chaplain in and we will offer our guys counselling after the amount of fatal crashes we have had,” he said.

“To me it was a real reminder.

“It was a reminder of the difficult task it is for our coppers to see these incidents. It’s also a reminder that the firefighters who attend are just volunteers.

“They came out in the rain and have to be confronted by a very unpleasant scene, and they are just volunteers.

“They are extraordinary people.”

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