Multiple charges laid over fatal NT bus crash


Monday, 03 June, 2024

Multiple charges laid over fatal NT bus crash

An NT tour company, its company director and the company’s mechanic have been charged over their alleged conduct in a fatal bus crash that killed a 69-year-old man in 2022. NT WorkSafe has laid multiple charges against Emu Run Tours Pty Ltd (trading as Emu Run Experience), Company Director Patrick Joseph Bedford and mechanic Ian Matthew Jackson, for allegedly reducing the wheels on a bus from six to four without any assessments or approvals before the crash.

In June 2022, a tour bus carrying two workers and 19 passengers was returning to Alice Springs along Larapinta Drive after a day trip when a tyre on the vehicle blew out. The incident, which occurred approximately 5 km outside of Hermannsburg, caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle, which overturned, resulting in the death of one passenger and injuries to all the remaining occupants.

An investigation conducted by NT WorkSafe found that the tour bus had been significantly modified, namely by changing the configuration of the bus from operating on six wheels to four wheels. NT WorkSafe alleges that the modifications to the vehicle had not been assessed and approved in accordance with Engineering and Vehicle Standards requirements. NT WorkSafe further alleges that the tyres fitted to the vehicle after the modifications had been completed were not used in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.

Emu Run Tours has been charged with four breaches of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 (the Act). Namely, one charge under Section 32 of the Act for breaching its primary duty of care (Section 19(1)) for failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers; and two charges under Section 32 of the Act for breaching its primary duty of care (Section 19(2)) for failing to ensure the health and safety of the passengers and exposing other road users to a health and safety risk. The company is also charged under Section 33 of the Act for failing to comply with the health and safety duties specified under Section 19(3)(a)(b)(c)(d) and (f) of the Act.

Company Director Patrick Joseph Bedford has been charged as an officer with four breaches of the Act. These include three charges under Section 32 of the Act for breaching his duty as an officer (Section 27(1)) for failing to exercise due diligence, which resulted in the workers being injured, resulted in the passengers being injured or killed, and resulted in other road users being exposed to a work health and safety risk. Bedford has also been charged under Section 33 of the Act for failing to comply with the health and safety duty (Section 27 (1)) which required him to exercise due diligence to ensure Emu Run Tours complied with the work health and safety laws.

Mechanic Ian Matthew Jackson has been charged as a worker with three breaches of the Act under Section 32, for breaching his duty as a worker in failing to ensure his acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons, which resulted in the workers being injured, resulted in the passengers being injured or killed, and resulted in other road users being exposed to a health and safety risk.

If found guilty, the fines for each charge for the company could total $5 million, while Bedford could be fined a maximum of $1 million, and $500,000 for Jackson. The matter is scheduled to be heard at the Darwin Local Court on 2 July, and if convicted fines could total more than $5 million.

Image credit: iStock.com/zbindere

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