Gosford City Council’s negligent road maintenance led to the “completely unnecessary” death of five family members who drowned when a section of the Old Pacific Highway collapsed, an inquest has found.
Deputy NSW Coroner Paul MacMahon delivered the findings from the inquest into the deaths of Adam Holt, 30, his partner Roslyn Bragg, 29, their two young daughters and a nine-year-old nephew.
They died last June when their car drove into a collapsed culvert on the highway at Somersby, north of Sydney, during heavy storms.
Mr MacMahon told the court that the council knew the highway culvert had been rusting for several years but did nothing to repair it.
“I am satisfied that had Gosford City Council dealt with the information it had available to it concerning the Piles Creek culvert in a competent, professional and timely manner the tragedy that occurred on 8 June 2007 would not have occurred.
“I can only say that it is quite clear that their deaths were both unfortunate and completely unnecessary,” he said.
The court was told that the council could have reinforced the rusted culvert with concrete for $277,000 but the engineering advice got lost in the system.
During the inquest, it was contended Mr Holt was responsible for the accident because traces of alcohol and cannabis were found in his blood.
The coroner cleared Mr Holt of any blame, saying the drugs were not relevant factors.
He also recommended that Local Government Minister Barbara Perry initiate an independent review into the council’s operations and the competency of its officers.
It is reported the families are considering launching a civil action against the council.
Gosford City Council said in a statement that it needed time to review and consider the findings before making any comment.
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