Inquest clears police
AN inquest has cleared two Hervey Bay police officers of wrong doing on the night that Peter and Nicole Ash were killed.
Constable Kelly Miles, 31, and Senior Constable Bradley Allen, 41, followed drunk driver Samuel Bonner along the Esplanade on July 18 just before he crashed into the Ashes’ car, killing them both instantly.
State Coroner Michael Barnes said that while the officers may have breached the police pursuit policy, they should not be criticised.
He said the deaths of the Point Vernon couple, aged 45 and 43, were caused solely by the “drunken and dangerous driving of Samuel Bonner”.
“Any transgression of the (police) policy was minor and transitory,” Mr Barnes said in his findings.
“I do not consider any unreasonable actions of the officers contributed to the crash occurring.
“I do not consider the officers should be criticised for their conduct.”
The inquest heard police followed Bonner and tried to intercept his Mitsubishi Magna at Torquay but it crossed into the right lane and overtook two vehicles ahead.
“We now know that Mr Bonner was attempting to evade the police and in my view that was the most reasonable and obvious interpretation of his overtaking the other vehicles after the police officers activated the flashing lights and siren on their vehicle,” Mr Barnes said.
“On that basis, continuing to attempt to intercept him by also overtaking the same vehicles rather than stopping and extinguishing the bar lights would be in breach of the policy.”
Mr Barnes rejected the claim by police that they were travelling at 65kmh.
“I do not accept the submission they were meandering along the Esplanade,” he said. “The CCTV footage at the Beach House Hotel and the Morocco nightclub indicates they narrowed the gap (between their car and Bonner’s) from about 750 metres to about 65 metres over the 1.3 kilometre interval between those points.”
Likewise, he said courtesy bus driver Patrick McNamara’s 100kmh estimation was doubtful.
“I accept the submission that Mr McNamara’s estimation of the speed can not be given great weight,” he said.
Bonner, who had been drinking and smoking cannabis, has been sentenced to eight years’ jail over the crash.
Ash family members yesterday declined to comment on the findings.