Police worked tirelessly to retrieve the bodies of a mother and her two children from their vehicle after it crashed into the Tweed River.
Police worked tirelessly to retrieve the bodies of a mother and her two children from their vehicle after it crashed into the Tweed River. SCOTT POWICK

Council commits to coronial inquest recommendations

TWEED Shire Council says it is committed to fulfilling recommendations handed down by the coroner following an inquest into the deaths of Stephanie King, Ella-Jane Kabealo and Jacob Kabealo.

Mrs King and two of her daughters drowned after their van slipped off Dulguigan Road and plunged into the Tweed River following ex-cyclone Debbie on April 3, 2017.

A three day inquest into their deaths was held earlier this week with the findings handed down today.

Coroner O'Sullivan handed down five recommendations for Tweed Shire Council, the official owners of Dulguigan Rd, to action in order to prevent further tragedies occurring on flood effected roads.  

She recommended the council conduct a study of shire roads to identify hazards during and following floods in an effort to mitigate such hazards, install warning signs on the southern and northern ends of Dulgluigan Rd alerting the public to hazards from mud and silt following floods and consider how best to educate the community to potential post-flood hazards on roads.

The coroner's report also recommends council trains its works officers to actively look for risks to road users arising from mud and silt being deposited on roads following floods.

The final recommendation suggested council should improve and update its volunteer-based road spotters program, which relies on people living in flood prone areas to actively contact council if they spot a potential flood related hazard.  

Coroner O'Sullivan said she was satisfied council had made a "significant effort to address shortcomings in their staff levels and procedures" following the flood and accident.

She also made clear Ms King did everything she could to prevent the accident from happening and had no prior knowledge to the possible dangers of driving along Dulguigan Rd, which was open that day.

Tweed Shire Council General Manager Troy Green said the council would fully accept the recommendations.

"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," he said.

 

Devastated husband Matt Kabealo to Ms King and father of the kids was present at the inquest. Picture: Danielle Smith
Devastated husband Matt Kabealo to Ms King and father of the kids was present at the inquest. Picture: Danielle Smith Rick Koenig

"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.

 

LEFT: Stephanie King, pictured with Ella-Jane Kabealo, 11, both tragically died after the van they were in plunged into the Tweed River. RIGHT: Ms King managed to save Chloe Kabealo, right, before going back to save her other kids. Jacob Kabealo, 7 also died.
LEFT: Stephanie King, pictured with Ella-Jane Kabealo, 11, both tragically died after the van they were in plunged into the Tweed River. RIGHT: Ms King managed to save Chloe Kabealo, right, before going back to save her other kids. Jacob Kabealo, 7 also died. Rick Koenig

"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."



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