Coroner investigating deadly regional intersection

·3-min read
Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS

The families of three foreign workers killed in Victoria's deadliest crash in more than a decade say they do not want such a tragedy to happen to any other family.

A coroner is investigating two crashes that occurred more than a year apart at the same intersection in the state's north.

Tasmanian man Kerry Rushton died on February 15 last year when the van he was driving crashed into a police car then struck a tree.

He had just arrived on the Spirit of Tasmania into Melbourne and was making deliveries to NSW when he died, near the intersection of Murray Valley Highway and Labuan Rd in Strathmerton.

Last month five people and a dog were killed in a three-vehicle crash in the same area.

Deputy State Coroner Jacqui Hawkins decided to investigate the two collisions together.

"Once I realised that this accident happened at exactly the same location as Mr Rushton's death, it needed urgent attendance to," Ms Hawkins told the Coroners Court on Thursday.

In the more recent crash, on April 20, a white Mercedes struck a Nissan Navara which spun and hit a B-double milk tanker on the highway.

Five people - Deborah Markey, Pin-Yu Wang, Hsin-Yu Chen, Wai Yan Lam and Zih-Yao Chen - and a dog all died instantly.

Ms Markey had been driving the four international workers from their job at a local abattoir home to Cobram, counsel assisting the coroner Lindsay Spence said.

"As Assistant Commissioner Glenn Weir ... noted after this tragedy, this was Victoria's deadliest motor vehicle accident in 11 years," he said.

The Mercedes driver, Christopher Dylan Joannides, 29, has been charged with five counts of dangerous driving causing death.

Lawyer Kathryn Footner, who is representing the families of Pin-Yu Wang, Hsin-Yu Chen and Zih-Yao Chen, said they supported the coroner investigating their deaths alongside Mr Rushton's.

"My clients' desire is this not happening again to any other family," she said.

The coronial investigation will examine whether any safety changes had been implemented at the deadly intersection since the two crashes.

Murray Valley Highway is controlled by the state government and responsibility for Labuan Rd falls to Moira Shire Council, Mr Spence said.

He said data would be gathered from Victoria Police on all crashes at that intersection in the past decade, along with analysis of the road's engineering, previous safety audits, reviews and site inspections.

Further, the coroner will investigate Joannides' interaction with police, as he was fined for speeding in the hour before the crash.

These investigations will be done separately to his criminal matters, and will examine the processes officers used during the intercept to ensure they complied with the law and police policy, Mr Spence said.

He said the court had been given footage from inside the highway patrol car and body-worn camera footage.

Moira Shire, the state government and Victoria Police were given until June 30 to file relevant material with the court.