SARTA backlash over raid on family after fatal Truro crash

Deceased’s family said to have been treated like terrorists and criminals

SARTA backlash over raid on family after fatal Truro crash
An image from 7 News coverage of the SARTA press conference


The aftermath of South Australia’s Truro truck collision tragedy has taken a distressing turn following state police actions and statements.

The South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) has objected trenchantly to what it casts as heavy-handed treatment of the family of one of the deceased drivers, Coen Fraser.

Fraser’s truck hit an Andrews Farms truck driven by Brenden Giles, who was also killed in the head-on collision during a dust storm.

Fraser, who was followed by two other trucks over Accommodation Hill, had swerved to avoid a car which had parked in the left lane of the Sturt Highway as visibility was reduced heavily and the car driver called emergency services – a move described as heroic.

SARTA director Steve Shearer says Fraser’s mother and uncle were treated "like terrorists" during a raid on their premises and were not informed of the fatality by the officers at the business.

He adds that the business has since been closed as they had "had a gutful" of the industry due to the way they had been treated.

The officers are said to have been searching for evidence of fatigue, despite being told Fraser was working on his own account and the truck involved did not belong to the raided company.

"Police were told that and still attended and acted as if they were dealing with criminals," Shearer says.

"They demanded documents, which they are entitled to ask for, but it is quite clear, given what they asked for, they are treating these individuals who have just lost their son and nephew, as if they are criminals. And it is not acceptable.

"It is neither necessary nor reasonable. It is unconscionable and we are extremely angry."

Read SARTA’s criticism of the present police attitude to the industry, here

Compounding SARTA’s sense of outrage were South Australia Police commissioner Grant Stevens that appear to have pre-judged the incident.

"A dust storm does not cause vehicles to crash. It's the decisions of the drivers," Stevens says, adding, "In this case, those decisions related to a choice made to continue driving, or driving in a manner which was not consistent with the conditions.

"They would not let those individual leave the premises and go to the scene. They would not answer their questions about what had happened."

Shearer has spoken publically in the past about a negative change in the state police attitude to the industry.

"We fully accept police have to do their job [but] what they have done is act in a brutal, unconscionable unprofessional manner," he says the recent incidents.

"I have been doing this for 25 years and I have never seen this sort of appalling behaviour by police . . . and it is symptomatic of the police in the past two years adopting an adversarial approach, whereas since I started in 1994, we had a cooperative, working relationship that dramatically improved safety in this industry.

"Mid-level managers trying to make their mark have walked away from that and it’s going to impact on safety on the road."

Shearer has pledged SARTA will lodge a "very serious complaint" about the matter.

SA police minister Corey Wingard is on leave and was unable to comment when ATN sought a response.


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