6 February 2024

Monaro Highway roadworks force memorial to move

| James Coleman
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floral tribute at crash site

The memorial to 14-year-old Susi Kopysiewicz and her best friend, 15-year-old Claire Sankey, began within days of the fatal crash. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT Government has confirmed a roadside memorial by the Monaro Highway will have to be removed to make way for roadworks.

Over the past few weeks, almost all of the trees between the north and southbound lanes of the Monaro Highway near the Lanyon Drive turnoff have been removed to make way for a sprawling new overpass. Except for two.

The two eucalyptus trees are decorated with tinsel, flowers, photos and lights in memory of 14-year-old Susi Kopysiewicz and her best friend, 15-year-old Claire Sankey, who were left to die at the scene in 2022.

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The girls were passengers in the rear seats of a maroon Toyota Camry driven by a 16-year-old boy – intoxicated and on his L plates – in the early hours of 9 October. He was trying to impress the girls by speeding when he lost control and slammed the car backwards into two trees at around 180 km/h. He and his friend in the front passenger seat fled the scene in an Uber. Police found the girls dead later that morning.

The boy was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a 22-month good behaviour order to be served upon his release, but the heartbreaking loss of the two girls prompted the memorial.

It’s far from the only roadside memorial in Canberra, to the point Roads ACT even published a policy document in 2019 specifically for Roadside and Urban Open Space memorials.

This “recognises the importance for family and friends to mark the location of a fatal incident with a roadside memorial as part of the grieving process”.

Crews only remove a roadside memorial if it “poses a safety hazard, impacts maintenance activities, such as mowing, impedes roadwork activities or underground services, is not maintained and in disrepair, or causes community concern”.

“Roads ACT will endeavour to contact the relatives of the deceased person prior to the roadside memorial being removed unless it poses an urgent safety hazard to the public.”

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While it might appear the trees are set to remain despite the roadworks, a spokesperson for the ACT Government said the memorial on the Monaro Highway “will need to be relocated to allow the Lanyon Drive interchange works to proceed”.

“Roadside memorials are a sensitive subject for all involved,” the spokesperson said.

“The project team are currently engaging with a representative from the families of the two girls to identify an appropriate and safe location for the memorial.”

Monaro Highway upgrades map

The roadworks are expected to take three years to complete. Photo: Supplied.

The section of the Monaro Highway at Hume is consistently listed as one of the top three most dangerous roads in Canberra. Despite the installation of speed cameras and signage, it is notorious as a speeding hotspot. In 2020, it was named the ACT’s worst site for crashes.

In April 2021, a collision about 400-metres south of the Tralee St intersection with the Monaro Highway at Hume killed rising CBR Brave ice hockey star Lachlan Seary.

The government hopes the new $70 million Lanyon Drive interchange “will improve safety for the thousands of road users who travel along this corridor every day as we work towards Vision Zero – no deaths or serious injuries on our roads”.

The roadworks are expected to be completed in 2027.

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Capital Retro8:41 am 07 Feb 24

“The section of the Monaro Highway at Hume is consistently listed as one of the top three most dangerous roads in Canberra.”

This is totally incorrect. The road is is not “dangerous”. The fatalities that have occurred there were due solely to the behaviour of the drivers of the vehicles involved.

It isn’t based on fatalities, it’s based of insurance data.

Capital Retro11:26 am 07 Feb 24

Links, please.

It’s the annual AAMI crash index, full reports on there. Most news publications write about it each year, including multiple articles on here. This intersection is often ranked worst.

Quick google results below but easy to find more.

2023 https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/8348809/canberras-10-most-dangerous-roads-revealed-in-new-data/

2021 https://citynews.com.au/2021/canberras-most-dangerous-roads-revealed/

2018 https://aboutregional.com.au/canberras-10-most-dangerous-roads-revealed-monaro-highway-the-worst/

Robert Curtis3:45 pm 07 Feb 24

Had the ACT government installed a red light camera at the intersection of Monaro Hwy and Lanyon Drive at the time the Traffic Improvement signage went up in Sept ’21, they’d have paid for the overpass and a good slab of the light rail too by now.

Capital Retro3:54 pm 07 Feb 24

Thanks for that, I could only access the 2018 one and it referred more to that area of road being a “hotspot” due to the volumes of traffic and access roads. The two fatal accidents referred two occurred after 2018 and they were both in the early hours of the morning when traffic flow was minimal. I think a more accurate report would be forthcoming from the ACT police.

I reiterate that the fatal accidents referred to had nothing to do with the conditions of the road.

James, thanks for clarifying the situation. I regularly drive that way each day, and I remember the morning when the horriffic acident happened. All northbound traffic was bypasssed through Hume while the rescue teams worked to remove the girls – the thought that they were left by those two boys to die there haunts me even today. It would have been a very difficult time for their family and friends, and I give Them a thought every time I now pass the memorial.

So, the memorial is to be removed? Well, the current memorial until now appears to have complied with the policy, and the situation has arisen due to a construction project initiated by local government, so what is the appropriate action? I note that the memorial is placed to the end and side of construction, and perhaps the location could be marked with a plaque or similar? Such consideration should be given for other (validated and complying) memorials needing removal for other such future construction works – perhaps a minor addition to the policy is warranted?

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