11 September 2019

First anniversary of Lochiel road rage death comes with call for action

| Ian Campbell
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Louise and David Brand. Photo: Supplied

Louise and David Brand. Photo: Supplied

David Brand’s cycling friends will remember their mate this weekend as they ride the road where his life was taken 12 months ago today – June 23.

His widow Louise is marking David’s first anniversary simply and quietly with her sons, but she continues to advocate for a coronial inquest into his death and push for changes in the law, community attitudes, and policing resources locally.

The 72-year-old Merimbula local was killed while he rode his bicycle with friends on Mount Darragh Road at Lochiel between Eden and Pambula.

While the incident happened on June 23, 2018, David’s death in hospital came on July 3, the result of extensive head injuries received in that one moment eleven days prior.

The actions of thirty-seven-year-old Lochiel man Nathan Cumming in that one moment were found to have contributed to David’s death.

In sentencing Cumming in Bega Local Court in February, Magistrate Doug Dick said the crime was “properly categorised as road rage.”

Cumming was given a 12-month Intensive Correction Order, fined $5,000, and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service, for his undisputed role in David’s death.

Solicitor Mark Hagan acknowledged Cumming, “should not have stopped and should not have got out of his car,” and that Cumming should have kept driving.

Police Prosecutor, Sergeant Liza Brown said the events of that day, had “changed the lives of many on Mount Darragh Road.”

And that if Cumming had “kept his opinions” about the rights of all road users to himself than David would still be alive today.

Cumming, who had four prior negligent driving and speeding offences to his name, was warned that further offences could see him inside a jail cell.

David and Louise Brand and their sons. Photo: Supplied.

David and Louise Brand and their sons Sam and Jack. Photo: Supplied.

In her ongoing campaign to honour her husband and have David’s death mean something and inspire change, Louise has been active with political and legal leaders.

In a letter to the NSW Coroner, Louise is seeking an inquest to deal with the issues David’s death raises. She has also met with the Member for Bega and NSW Roads and Transport Minister, Andrew Constance, with the support of the Bega Tathra Safe Ride committee.

“As the anniversary of my husband’s death from a road rage incident on the Mt Darragh Road nears, I was very pleased to get an invitation to meet with Andrew Constance MP to discuss issues surrounding David’s death and my request for a Coronial Inquest into it,” Lousie says.

“Andrew’s support of my position was very encouraging and one of the few positive things to emerge in what has been a very difficult year for me and my family.”

Lousie says she appreciates the compassion and concern Mr Constance displayed. His office has confirmed to Region Media that he will write a letter of support to the NSW Coroner.

Among the issues, Louise says she and Mr Constance agreed on were:

  • To investigate greater access to a Crash Unit on the Far South Coast, and to understand fully why this unit was not called to the incident involving David as it meant vital forensic evidence was lost;
  • To analyse the leniency of sentencing into a road rage incident which resulted in a man’s death;
  • To progress education about the safe passing laws in the wider community as at present they seem to be very poorly understood;
  • To explore the fact that we have safe passing legislation but that this legislation is not being adequately enforced;
  • To address why road rage is on the increase in our community and what we can do to reduce it;
  • To support the introduction of new laws which deal with the interfering of any road user by a member of the public, resulting in injury and/or death of that road user.

“All of these issues are central to my request to the NSW State Coroner for an inquest into David’s death. I am extremely heartened that Andrew has agreed to write to the Coroner as my local member in support of my request for a Coronial Inquest,” Louise says.

Doug Reckord, Secretary of Bega Tathra Safe Ride was at the meeting with Mr Constance, “It has been inspiring for us to see a person, who has experienced such a devastating loss, working so hard for justice for David, while also constructively advocating for road safety improvements that will benefit all road users, not just those on bikes,” he says.

“In February this year, Louise Brand was not obliged to read her Victim Impact Statement to the court but did so because, as she stated, – he [David] would have done that for me.

Drawing on the power that comes with occasions like today, Louise says, “On this important anniversary for me, I would urge all road users over the coming period, and nearing school holidays, to be mindful of other’s rights to be on the road and to share that road with tolerance and patience.

“Remember – your road rage can kill.”

Region Media requested an interview with Andrew Constance but he has been unavailable.

Check your understanding of the road rules for cyclists and drivers at the Centre for Road Safety website.

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