A coronial inquest into the death of Blake Corney aimed to find ways to improve road safety to prevent another tragic crash like the one that killed the four-year-old.
Blake, his parents and younger brother were driving to Toys ‘R’ Us at the Majura Park Shopping Centre on 28 July 2018 and had stopped at an intersection on the Monaro Highway when Akis Emmanouel Livas crashed his truck into the back of their car at 70 km/h.
Blake was killed, but his family survived. Livas pleaded guilty to causing his death and was jailed for at least two years and three months in the ACT Supreme Court.
According to the court, medical records showed Livas had a possible diagnosis of sleep apnea going back as far as 2013. After the crash, in 2019, he was diagnosed with the condition.
But when he applied for his job as a truck driver in 2017 and renewed his heavy vehicle drivers licence in 2018, he said he did not have any condition that could affect his driving ability.
“He failed to investigate his health in circumstances where he was repeatedly told that he ought to,” Justice David Mossop said in his judgement for the case.
“Had he done so, he would not have been driving at the time of the accident.”
On Monday (28 June), the counsel assisting the coroner, barrister Rebecca Curran, told the ACT Coroner’s Court the facts of Blake’s death highlighted the insufficiency of relying on reports by an individual when it came to road safety.
Blake’s mother, Camille Jago, said she wanted the inquiry to reduce, if not eliminate, the likelihood of anyone else dying as her son did.
“The manner of Blake’s death haunts our family, friends and those individuals involved at the collision site, including emergency response,” she said.
She wanted the inquest to look at the tightening of licencing as well as mandatory reporting of known or suspected illnesses that inhibit driving ability.
Blake’s father, Andrew Corney, said his son would have turned seven just over a month ago.
He told the court about the horrifying scene he faced after the crash, describing his son’s wound as “more akin to a battlefield injury”.
“All vehicles are lethal weapons,” he said.
He said companies should take better care of who they selected as drivers.
Detective Ash Laidler said, since the tragedy, the company that employed Livas at the time of the crash had instigated several changes to improve safety. All of its drivers, for example, had to be medically cleared to operate heavy vehicles by their GPs.
The company was also looking at replacing its ageing fleet with new vehicles that had anti-collision technologies.
Towards Zero chairman Lachlan McIntosh said he supported introducing technologies like mandatory autonomous emergency braking.
He said regulators have had the opportunity to introduce the technology for many years but failed to do so.
Ms Jago described her son to the court, saying he was a jigsaw puzzle master who liked Lego and seemed to be developing a flair for music.
She said Blake’s younger brother had now surpassed the age Blake was when he died and was often sad because he missed him.
“There is a hole in our family that cannot be filled,” she said.
“I miss Blake every day.”
The inquest ran before Chief Coroner Lorraine Walker. She will hand down her findings on 20 August.