Coronial report into death of Canberra boy Blake Corney recommends tougher health screening for truck drivers

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The final coronial report into the death of four-year-old Blake Corney has recommended tougher health screening for truck drivers, and incentives for autonomous emergency braking and fatigue sensor systems to be placed in trucks.

Blake Corney died of catastrophic head injuries when a truck ploughed into his family’s car as they waited at the lights on the Monaro Highway in July 2018.

The truck driver, Akis Livas, pleaded guilty to culpable driving causing death, and was sentenced to more than three years in jail.

A key issue that arose from Livas’s case was the fact he had been referred to a sleep laboratory, with suspected sleep apnoea at least twice in the years before the crash, but had not followed up the referrals.

After the accident, he was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnoea.

At the time, the doctor noted that he “should not be operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery until his severe obstructive sleep apnoea is adequately treated and he can demonstrate compliance to CPAP therapy”.

In an emotional session today, Coroner Lorraine Walker delivered her recommendations, including that the ACT government make it mandatory for doctors to report health issues likely to have an impact on a professional driver to licensing authorities.

Coroner Walker also suggested better information sharing of health records.

The inquest also considered autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and fatigue detection technologies.

Coroner Walker has urged the ACT government to introduce incentives for truck owners to install the systems, which are widely used overseas.

“Had Mr Livas been driving a truck with an AEB fitted, Blake may still be alive today,” she said.

She also noted that the company which had employed Livas had begun replacing its trucks to include anti-collision technology.

Outside the court, Blake’s parents paid tribute to their son.

“Blake was a fantastically energetic child, who I think had the sheer joy of life,” Blake’s father, Andrew Corney said.

“He lived in the moment, as you would like a four-year-old boy to do. He had a wonderful future ahead of him. Unfortunately, it was cut short by someone who just didn’t do due diligence to driving a heavy truck, didn’t pay attention, with catastrophic consequences.”

His mother, Camille Jago, pleaded with local politicians to respond humanely to the report’s recommendations.

“My son Blake may not have died that horrific day if heavy vehicles had currently available safety features or if there had been better information sharing of medical records for heavy vehicle licence holders,” she said.

Ms Jago also urged people to use their own power to press for change.

“The next time you order landscape supplies or any supplies that require the use of a heavy vehicle, ask if the supplier’s trucks include autonomous emergency braking,” she said.

“I cannot have Blake back in his physical form but I can advocate for changes that may prevent similar deaths to Blake’s. It is one of the few ways that I can continue to mother Blake and I will continue to do that.”

Lauchlan McIntosh from the Towards Zero Foundation — a charity working towards reducing road deaths worldwide — also gave evidence to the inquest.

He has called on the ACT government to heed the coroner’s recommendations.

They can make sure their contractor’s trucks have AEB, they don’t have to mandate it but there are good strong incentive measures available,” he said.

The Coroner’s report is yet to be handed to the ACT Legislative Assembly for a response.