The NSW Coroner has rejected an application to review the road rage death of Merimbula cyclist David Brand, a decision his widow has labelled as expedient and hurtful.
72-year-old Mr Brand was killed while he rode his bicycle with friends on Mount Darragh Road at Lochiel between Eden and Pambula in 2018.
While the incident happened on June 23, 2018, Mr Brand’s death in Canberra Hospital came on July 3, the result of extensive head injuries received in that one moment eleven days prior.
The actions of 37-year-old Lochiel man Nathan Cumming, in stopping his car and approaching Mr Brand, were found to have contributed to Mr Brand’s death.
Mr Cumming was given a 12-month Intensive Correction Order, fined $5,000, and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service. The carpenter and father/step-father to four children is currently serving his sentence in the community. Appearing in Bega Local Court in February this year, Mr Cumming avoided the two years in jail and $11,000 fine that was possible with his criminal charge – Grievous Bodily Harm by an Unlawful Act.
Mr Brand’s widow and life partner of 40 years, Louise has been a strong, determined and impassioned voice for change since her husband’s death.
“Educating both drivers and cyclists to share the road safely can only benefit everyone and help to ensure that what happened to my husband does not happen to others,” she says.
Mrs Brand has also campaigned for stronger enforcement of the minimum passing distance, safer driving behaviour around cyclists, and better driver education.
As part of her efforts, earlier this year Mrs Brand requested a Coronial Inquest “so that some of these issues can be better looked at” and wrote to the NSW Coroner.
State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan has since investigated the circumstances around Mr Brand’s death but has decided not to take the matter further, declining Mrs Brand’s request for a public inquest.
“My husband was killed when a belligerent man confronted him on his bicycle. This man may not have meant to kill David, but his reckless actions did,” Mrs Brand says.
“The court and our legal system chose to charge this man with grievous bodily harm but not manslaughter. I did not consider this charge adequate at the time, nor do so now.
“Upon advice from the police I wrote to the NSW State Coroner about this injustice, requesting further investigation which could result in the making of recommendations as to how we as a society can grapple with the increasing prevalence of road rage.
“This request was supported by Mr Andrew Constance MP, Minister for Transport and Roads, as my local elected representative in Bega.
“Last week I was informed by the Coroner’s office that further investigation into what happened to David, and investigation/recommendations which could enhance public safety and begin to address road rage, has been denied.
“The Coroner’s office states that my request is “outside their jurisdiction” and beyond “the scope” of their brief.
“Why, then, was I advised to take this course of action by the police? To whom does one turn to raise an awareness of injustice and to review ways to promote reform for public safety, if not the Coroner’s office?
“From a personal point of view, I found the Coroner’s response to be reductive and insensitive.
“In particular, the statement that because “Mr Brand was more senior in years than Mr Cumming’ he would have been “more vulnerable to injury” is completely dismissive of the nature of the injury David sustained. David’s age was and is irrelevant; to suggest otherwise is offensive and ageist.
“I believe that a good opportunity to initiate change has been lost by this decision. Only by raising issues which promote safer roads for all road users can improvements be made for the betterment of our society.
“My husband’s death could have been a catalyst for this but it seems that such an investigation is just too much of a challenge to contemplate. As ordinary citizens, where then can we go? I for one, no longer have faith in our legal system.
“To be shut down by the Coroner’s office in the manner is a lost opportunity: Road rage incidents are increasing in our society. They are up 80% 2017-2018.
“They account for $30 billion being spent on road trauma.
“What more does it take? How many more preventable deaths and heartache do families like mine have to go through before the Coroner’s office decides to address the situation?
“Expedience, rather than investigative review, seems to be the order of the day.”
Mrs Brand says she is considering her options but remains dedicated to the task of securing justice for her husband and improving road safety for all.