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October 27, 2021

Coronial Inquest into the deaths of Stephanie King, Ella-Jane Kabealo and Jacob Kabealo

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Stephanie King and her three children Chloe May 8, Jacob, 7, and Ella Jane, 11. Photo Facebook.

Recommendations have been released from the Coronial Inquest into the tragic deaths of Stephanie King, Ella-Jane Kabealo and Jacob Kabealo on April 3, 2017.

The findings of Acting State Coroner, Magistrate Teresa O’Sullivan last week, were that the three died after the car Stephanie King was driving on Dulguigan Road, North Tumbulgum, lost traction with the road because of mud and silt that remained after flood waters, causing the van to slide onto the other side of the road and into the northern bank of the Tweed River.

The road had not been closed by the Council.

Ms King’s eight-year-old daughter, Chloe May managed to escape the car and raise the alarm.

The recommendations of the court to the Tweed Shire Council were that: 1. Council consider conducting a study of roads within the Tweed Shire Council areas, to identify particular hazards during and following floods, as well as strategies to mitigate such hazards; 2. That consideration be given to updating the Council’s Standard Operating Procedures to provide for Works Officers to actively look for risks to road users arising from mud and silt being deposited on roads following floods; 3. That the Road Spotters Program be updated to seek to increase the number of volunteer road spotters who live adjacent to known critical road flooding locations and that Council also prepare a Road Closure Volunteer Instructions document that provides criteria for when to notify Council, including referring to water being on the road during floods and mud or silt being deposited on the road following floods; 4. That consideration be given to installing warning signs on the southern and northern ends of Dulguigan Road North Tumbulgum alerting the public to hazards from mud and silt following floods; and 5. That Council considers how best to advertise to the community a change in procedure for road closures, if, as proposed in the draft Road Emergencies and Closure procedure, a road is also considered to be closed when an obvious hazard makes it unsafe or impassable for general traffic until the hazard has receded or been removed.

Troy Green, General Manager of Tweed Shire Council said that this tragic event, and the wider impact of the devastating flood, continues to deeply affect the Tweed community more than two years on.

‘On behalf of Council and councillors, our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to the King and Kabealo families and their friends as we remember Stephanie, Ella-Jane and Jacob.

‘We lost six members of the Tweed community around these unprecedented floods and we also remember Gitana Schiphoni, Marc Austin and Matthew Roser.

‘Tweed Shire Council fully accepts the recommendations of the Coroner and we are committed to implementing them to prevent a similar tragedy.

‘As was acknowledged during the Inquest, we have already taken significant steps to improve safety and to communicate more proactively with the community.

‘Last year we completed the construction of a 220 metre guardrail along the river side of Dulguigan Road. We have also launched an online Emergency Dashboard for Tweed community members which brings together important information from a number of agencies into one place.

‘In addition, the Inquest acknowledged the work we have done to improve our internal processes in relation to road closures.

‘Council has continued to support the Tweed community throughout the recovery from the devastation caused by the 2017 flood.’

The findings and recommendations can be viewed on the Coroners Court webpage.

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