Driver’s death impact on Ravenshoe cafe explosion inquest

 

THE devastating Ravenshoe cafe explosion, which left two people dead and 19 injured, has taken another tragic turn with the death of driver Brian Scutt.

The 64-year-old, (left) who was suffering long-term health problems including dementia, was farewelled by family and close friends, including wife Robin and son James, at a funeral at Ravenshoe yesterday.

His death on August 1 in Cairns Hospital came more than four years since his four-wheel drive crashed into Serves You Right cafe on Ravenshoe's main street and hit gas bottles which ignited and caused a huge explosion.

Ravenshoe cafe driver Brian Scutt. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
Ravenshoe cafe driver Brian Scutt. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

Cafe manager Nicole Nyholt, 37, and Innot Hot Springs grandmother Margaret Clark, 82, died from their injuries. Mr Scutt was ruled mentally unfit to face criminal charges last year following a hearing on the Queensland Mental Health Court.

Kennedy MP Bob Katter described the situation as a "body blow" and said he believed Mr Scutt had blamed himself for the tragedy.

The aftermath of the explosion at Serves You Right cafe in Ravenshoe. PHOTO: Katherine Kokkonen
The aftermath of the explosion at Serves You Right cafe in Ravenshoe. PHOTO: Katherine Kokkonen

"There is not the slightest bit of culpability at all attached to that … but I can't help but believe that he thought that way," Mr Katter said.

The deaths of Ms Nyholt and Mrs Clark are the subject of an inquest which was due to be held last month, but was rescheduled after the death of Mr Scutt's former doctor, Ravenshoe GP Ken Connolly.

Brian Scutt, diver of the ute that crashed into the Ravenshoe cafe.
Brian Scutt, diver of the ute that crashed into the Ravenshoe cafe.

The inquest is now due to take place in February next year.

A spokesman for the Coroners Court of Queensland said Mr Scutt's death would not impact or affect the inquest.

"Mr Scutt was not intended to be called as a witness," the spokesman said.

"The Northern Coroner, Ms Nerida Wilson, will explore a number of issues including an examination of the treatment and care provided to Mr Scutt by the Atherton Hospital and GP Dr Connolly.

Emergency services at the scene of the explosion at Serves You Right cafe. PHOTO: Katherine Kokkonen
Emergency services at the scene of the explosion at Serves You Right cafe. PHOTO: Katherine Kokkonen

"The Northern Coroner will also explore whether, on the evidence, Mr Scutt was fit to hold a licence and consider the obligations on medical practitioners to notify the Department of Transport and Main Roads if they form a reasonable belief that a person is not medically fit to drive a motor vehicle."

The explosion injured 20 people at the Serves You Right cafe in Ravenshoe. PHOTO: Katherine Kokkonen
The explosion injured 20 people at the Serves You Right cafe in Ravenshoe. PHOTO: Katherine Kokkonen

The Queensland Mental Health Court was told last year Mr Scutt was suffering dementia and would never be fit to stand trial on charges including dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.

The court heard he was suffering from paranoid delusions and had been told by many doctors he was not fit to be behind the wheel.

A vehicle drove into the back of Serves You Right Cafe, igniting the gas cylinders and causing an explosion. PHOTO: Katherine Kokkonen
A vehicle drove into the back of Serves You Right Cafe, igniting the gas cylinders and causing an explosion. PHOTO: Katherine Kokkonen

Mr Scutt wrongly believed he was wanted by police and was dying of multiple cancers when he lost control of his 4WD and ploughed into two gas cylinders outside the packed cafe in June 2015.

The Reach Out for Ravenshoe appeal, spearheaded by the Cairns Post, raised more than $500,000 for the victims of the tragedy to help them in their recovery.