02:34 pm, Wednesday 30 January, 2008
THE State Government is poised to admit liability and pay compensation after one of its departments sent three truckies to their deaths in a bushfire.
The truck drivers were killed when swirling fire trapped them on the Great Eastern Highway, west of Kalgoorlie, at about 8.45pm on December 30.
The road had been reopened about an hour earlier by the Department of Environment and Conservation.
While a possible coronial inquest into the tragedy is months away, the state Government’s RiskCover last week invited trucking company Darogi to make a claim for its commercial losses in the blaze.
Four trucks were incinerated in the inferno, which burned for weeks in the Boorabbin National Park.
RiskCover, the arm of the West Australian Insurance Commission representing government agencies, began assessing the losses of Perth trucking company Darogi last Monday with a view to making a payout.
The Insurance Commission of Western Australia’s managing director Vic Evans could not be reached yesterday to discuss compensation.
But a spokesman from the Department of Environment and Conservation said payments would be in keeping with the department’s response to the tragedy.
He said the department had not and would not shirk its responsibilities to those affected by the tragedy.
Darogi owner Darryl Gibaud – who lost friends and employees Robert Taylor and Lewis Bedford in the blaze – said the RiskCover assessor invited him to make a claim that would be reviewed against its own assessment of his commercial losses.
“They have told me the Government will admit liability,” he said.
“First they want to see if I need any emergency relief, then they will start looking at what compensation to pay me.”
Mr Gibaud said one of his trucks and two attached semi-trailers were destroyed in the fire that killed Taylor and Bedford.
He estimated that after an expected payout from his own insurer, he would sustain continuing losses of about $250,000 because of the fire.
RiskCover’s assessment comes after Mr Gibaud threatened to sue the Carpenter Government.
It is unclear yet whether the families of the deceased men plan to take any legal action.
Senior officers from the Department of Environment and Conservation this month visited the families of the three men to apologise for the decision to reopen the road.
The department officers offered their deepest sympathy and financial assistance, including funeral costs.
DEC drove Mr Taylor’s belongings to the south coast town of Esperance at his cousin’s request.
Bedford, 60, and Taylor, 46, both from Two Rocks, died in their truck.
Trevor Murley, 53, of Hovea, was incinerated nearby in another truck, one of a convoy of 15 vehicles allowed through a section of Great Eastern Highway between Coolgardie and Southern Cross.
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