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'No time frame' for inquiry into fatal border closure crash

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Six months after a truck driver died in a fiery crash at the Victorian border after it shut suddenly due to COVID restrictions, SA Police say they have no timetable for completing a Commissioner’s inquiry into the circumstances of the collision.

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South Australian truck driver Steven Lawrie was killed in the crash near Bordertown in the early hours of February 11.

Lawrie’s B-double slammed into the back of a stationary truck in a five-kilometre queue of vehicles waiting on the Western Highway to enter South Australia from Victoria.

The second truck was pushed into a third truck ahead of it. All three trucks burst into flames, with a driver and passenger in the second truck taken to hospital with injuries.

The backlog of vehicles at the Bordertown checkpoint followed a 3pm announcement by SA authorities that the border would shut to Greater Melbourne at midnight, prompting a surge in travellers trying to enter South Australia before the deadline.

After the accident, Police Commissioner and state emergency coordinator Grant Stevens said he had launched a “commissioner’s inquiry” into the incident to “examine the circumstances in relation to how we’ve been managing our border checkpoints” and “establish the full circumstances that have potentially contributed to the incident”.

Six months later, SA Police says there is no timeframe for the completion of that inquiry.

“The matter is ongoing and there is no time frame for completion,” a SAPOL spokesperson told InDaily on Monday.

Asked whether the findings of the inquiry would be made public, the spokesperson said: “Once the review is completed a determination will be made on what information will be made public.”

On February 11, Stevens refused to speculate on the cause of the crash, saying he would let the inquiry take its “natural course” and “when we do have information, that will be made available”.

He also said a traffic management expert, senior police officer and a planning expert were deployed to the Bordertown checkpoint after the crash to “[review] our set up to make sure it’s appropriate in the circumstances”.

Despite the crash occurring in Victoria, South Australia Police were responsible for the signage leading into the Bordertown checkpoint.

Five SA Police officers were at the checkpoint when the accident happened, according to Stevens.

“I wouldn’t be called on whether the arrangements in place were adequate or not,” Stevens told reporters in February.

“But I have ensured that we’ll do a proper inquiry alongside the work being done by the Victoria Police to provide a factual assessment of what’s already transpired and what the causative factors were.”

Asked whether the public was given enough notice about the border closure, he said: “This is consistent with other border closures we’ve done in terms of the timeframe we’ve provided people to come into South Australia.”

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