A police officer followed the proper safe driving policy during an attempted traffic stop that led to the death of a teenage girl, a NSW coroner has found.
Friday’s findings mean Skye Heffernan, then 17, died in June 2020 as a result of a car collision rather than anything the police had done in attempting to stop her speeding vehicle.
The accident occurred on Bulga Road near the town of Wingham on the NSW mid-north coast.
Senior Constable Dennis Reid spotted Ms Heffernan driving at 108km/h in an 80km/h zone, with evidence suggesting she increased her speed afterwards.
Flashing his police lights, Sen Const Reid did a u-turn but lost sight of the teen’s vehicle until coming across the car crash 3km down the road.
Terrence Cross, the driver of the other car in the collision, said he noticed dust and debris flying everywhere as Ms Heffernan’s car crossed the grass verge and impacted the front of his vehicle.
A crash investigation showed Ms Heffernan’s rear wheels were unroadworthy because of poor tread depth. No other faults were found with her car.
‘Full of life’
Deputy State Coroner Carmel Forbes noted the tragic nature of the incident, offering her condolences to the teenager’s family and friends.
“She was full of love, life and shone bright in the lives of all who knew her. It is evident that she will be sorely missed by everyone who loved her,” she wrote.
The coroner noted Ms Heffernan loved working with animals and being outdoors, and had been offered a job on the day of her death.
In examining Sen Const Reid’s actions, she found he had not commenced a pursuit of Ms Heffernan’s vehicle but had correctly followed the car to make a traffic stop.
The in-car video system in his car did not activate as it should have, and did not warn him of the malfunction, meaning there was no video footage of the incident for the court or police to review.
Ms Forbes did not make any recommendations regarding this, however, after being told the current ICV system was being replaced.
A NSW Police spokesperson noted the coroner’s findings as well as the force’s ongoing procurement of new video recording technology for its vehicles.