Road was open before family's car plunged into murky river
THE moments leading up to the tragic deaths of a mother and her two children who crashed into the Tweed River days after ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie devastated the region will be examined by the coroner.
The inquest will examine whether Dulguigan Rd in North Tumbulgum, the road Stephanie King, 43, was driving along before her car plunged into the river, should have been closed following the 2017 flood.
The inquest will also assess whether Tweed Shire Council took appropriate measures to warn drivers of the road post-flood. Ms King, and two of her three children, Ella-Jane, 11, and Jacob, seven, drowned when their vehicle left Dulgaigan Rd on April 3, 2017.
Ms King's second daughter, Chloe-May managed to escape the sinking vehicle and ran for help. The court heard testimony from five witnesses yesterday, each describing Dulguigan Rd's muddy conditions in the days after the 2017 flood event.
North Tumbulgum resident Margaret Lacey told the court she'd witnessed Ms King's van going into the Tweed River from her home.
Asked whether she'd known if the road had been closed prior to the accident, Ms Lacey said she had seen a sign on the side of the road near the intersection of Dulguigan Rd and McAuleys Rd.
"It was pushed right over to the side," she said.
"I thought it said 'road closed' but I'm not sure."
Having driven along the road the morning of the accident, Ms Lacey said there was "quite a lot of mud" on the road but "you were fine if you kept to the tyre tracks".
While in her initial police statement she had stated there were no barriers, Tumbulgum resident Jill Liibas told the court she did recall seeing barriers that "had been pushed to the side of the road" as she turned off Terranora Rd to drive along Dulguigan Rd.
"I can't remember seeing any barriers going out but coming back in the afternoon the barriers had been put on the side of the road," Ms Liibus said. "But anyone coming in the opposite direction couldn't have had any benefit of that warning."
Ms Liibus told the court she had almost driven into the river after she had lost control of her car while driving along Dulguigan Rd the same morning as the accident.
"I just lost complete control. My first instinct was to break and turn the steering wheel but I had training years ago that if you do that things get much worse," she said.
"Fortunately, I didn't do that because I wouldn't be here to tell you today."
The three-day inquest continues before Acting State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan, who will hand down her findings at Murwillumbah Court on Friday.