Driver Jonathan Tarboton knew of issues
The 1998 BMW that Jonathan Tarboton
drove was mechanically sound, but salt water corroded electronically-controlled
safety features that might have assisted when the car skidded and collided with
a truck on the afternoon of 14 October, 2008, in the vicinity of the
A Coroner’s Jury heard evidence
about the collision and the condition of the car before concluding that Mr.
Tarboton, 38, died by misadventure. The inquest was conducted by Queen’s
Coroner Margaret Ramsay-Hale on 30 September.
Evidence included a statement from
the man who sold Mr. Tarboton the BMW. He said after Hurricane Ivan in
September 2004, the car’s floor was wet with what he assumed was salt water. He
drove the car with no problem except for the electronic door locks.
Later he was told it would have to
be written off. He said Mr. Tarboton took the car to a garage for a check
before buying it from him. Mr. Tarboton gave him a letter saying if anything
happened, the seller was not responsible.
Stephen Gunby of GT Automotive said
he looked at the BMW after Ivan. He said salt water damage is virtually
unrepairable. The water evaporates, but the salt is left behind and corrosion
takes place. Everything electronic would have to be replaced — wiring,
switches, sensors. He said the airbags and anti-lock brake system were all electronic.
“It may work today but it will
deteriorate over time and more and more problems will result,” he emphasised.
In September 2008, a technician saw corrosion around the fuse box, Mr. Gunby
said, and this was brought to Mr. Tarboton’s attention. He said they had a long
talk about the condition of the safety features.
Retired vehicle inspector Collin
Redden said the BMW had no mechanical defects to cause the vehicle to lose
control. The steering components were intact and the brakes were working, but
electronic defects compromised safety. He said the car was equipped with
automatic stability control and traction that, along with the anti-lock braking
system, would assist the driver to maintain control if they were working.
Mr. Redden said he found the
vehicle in second gear and the throttle wide open, indicating the driver was
accelerating from the roundabout onto the by-pass. One witness had mentioned a
narrow trench in the road. Answering questions from Attorney Huw Moses, who
appeared on behalf of Mr. Tarboton’s family, Mr. Redden said the trench was 200
feet away and did not have an effect. He noted Mr. Tarboton was not wearing a
Accident reconstructionist Vincent
Walters said the two people in the truck, who suffered minor injuries, were
wearing seat belts. He said the driver of the BMW applied harsh acceleration
coming off the roundabout, causing the car to skid, rotate and veer into
Government pathologist Shavana
Jyoti said Mr. Tarboton died from multiple blunt trauma injuries, including
skull fractures. He would have immediately become unconscious. The car had
caught fire, but the autopsy report did not mention any soot in Mr. Tarboton’s
trachea; this indicated he did not inhale smoke before he died. Alcohol and
drug tests were negative.