‘Systemic failures’ before grandmother’s death, inquest hears

‘Systemic failures’ before grandmother’s death, inquest hears

An inquest into the death of a much-loved South Australian grandmother who was killed when a tree came crashing down on her car is investigating how it can be stopped from happening again.

The coroner was today told there was a systemic failure to monitor the tree’s health. 

Grandmother and teacher Judith Ditter was killed when a massive branch from a towering cottonwood tree came crashing down on her car as she drove along Mt Barker Road in Stirling in November 2020.

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While it’s been labelled a freak accident, according to counsel assisting the inquest, there was a failure to properly monitor and inspect the tree in question in the years before the tragedy. 

The cottonwood was on private property and so large it was classed as “significant”, meaning council approval was needed for anything to be done that could damage the tree’s health.

The coroner heard that the tree could have been affected by works including excavations, driveway construction, and the installation of a stobie pole, although no single cause for the branch’s fall has been pinpointed.

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Multiple opportunities for inspection since 2012 were also missed. 

Kerrie Hayes, the owner of the home where the tree stood, testified that she had called an arborist nearly a year before the incident and was advised that the tree required pruning but that it was not an urgent matter.

The inquest is expected to run for two weeks and will hear evidence from arborists who examined the tree before and after the fall.

This article was produced with the assistance of 9ExPress.

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