ACT News

License article

Crane death inquest placed on hold

The inquest into the death of a man crushed by a crane has been put on hold, with the coroner finding reasonable grounds to suspect an offence has been committed.

Geoffrey William “Blackfella” Gowan was pinned between a truck-mounted crane and a control panel in the early hours of his 57th birthday in January 2009.

The father-of-three had been employed by SITA Environmental Solutions for a little more than a week when the accident occurred behind the Evatt shops.

He and a colleague were collecting a hopper in pre-dawn darkness on January 13 when Mr Gowan was trapped between the arm of the crane and the control panel on the side of the truck.

Paramedics arrived a short time later, but the pinned worker was already dead.

From the outset of the hearing Detective Senior Constable Rob Holst, who investigated the death, warned Mr Gowan's lack of experience, and the fact no training or licensing were required to use the machine, may have contributed to his death.


And during the inquest witnesses raised serious concerns about the training SITA’s Canberra branch provided in the use of the Palfinger truck-mounted crane.

This morning Coroner Peter Dingwall said he had reasonable grounds to believe an indictable offence had been committed by a party appearing in the inquest.

But he made an interim ruling there would be no adverse finding against crane importer Sonnie Pty Ltd, trading as Palfinger Australia.

SITA, two former SITA managers, employment company Adecco and crane manufacturers Palfinger Austria were also represented.

The coroner will now write to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which will consider the evidence and decide whether to proceed with a prosecution.

It’s likely any charges laid would fall under the territory’s occupational health and safety legislation, such as failing to comply with a safety duty.

Under the Coroner’s Act the inquest cannot now proceed until either the DPP indicates they will not proceed with a prosecution, or three months elapses without a case being brought.