Spill victim out of pocket

MULLUMBIMBY driver Simone Hausknecht is thankful she remains alive after a dramatic highway bingle near Bangalow on April 2.

But she and her partner Jason Thomas remain financial victims of the accident, which she blames on an oil spill which created chaos on the Paci- fic Highway that morning.

Trouble is, the driver at the centre of the accidental spill will not be charged, because no crime has been committed, and environmental authorities do not plan to take the matter further, which may make the couple's claim for compensation difficult.

However, the RTA is still considering whether it will pursue compensation for costs incurred during the clean-up of the spill.

Ms Hausknecht said she was driving south towards the Bangalow turnoff from St Helena when her 1998 Mitsubishi Magna wagon drifted uncontroll- ably into oncoming traffic.

She managed to regain control before any calamity and steered the wagon back into her own lane before it spun out of control and smashed into a steel guard rail. The badly dented car was a write-off.

Witnesses stopped to lend assist- ance while Ms Hausknecht waited for police to arrive. But that morning was a busy one for police, and after 90 min- utes the tow truck, which had come to the accident scene, took her disabled car away. Ms Hausknecht did not get the names or phone numbers of those witnesses.

Police later contacted Ms Hausknecht for a statement.

In the meantime, Bangalow garages were too full with vehicles, some from accidents that morning, and Ms Haus- knecht's car was towed to Lismore at a cost of $430. There she was told her 10-year-old car, with a replacement value of $6800, was not worth repairing.

Trouble is, she only has third party insurance and must chase compensation directly from the trucking com- pany and its insurers.

The 40km diesel oil spill, stretching from Yelgun to Clunes, caused nine confirmed accidents and is currently under investigation by the RTA and insurance brokers OAMPS, who back Queensland trucking company JR Stephens.

At the centre of the investigation is a JR Stephens truck, whose driver was pulled over by police at Clunes. The truck's diesel filter was found to have a split seal. The unladen truck had drained 280 litres of fuel into the path of traffic.

Insurance broker Roger Parker confirmed OAMPS was leading its own investigation, and noted that other trucks may be involved, other than the JR Stephens vehicle.

“At this point we are dealing with assumptions and we won't work on assumptions,” he said. “However we are treating this matter as urgent.”



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