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Family of truck driver who was using ice awarded $504,350

ice truckie

The family of a truck driver who died in a 2013 SA crash while using ice has been awarded a $504,350 payout after the Workers Compensation Commission found he was acting within the course of his employment.

Darren Hughes, 42, had worked for up to 36 hours and had been smoking what his partner described as “little rocks … in a glass pipe” to help him stay awake, when his B-double crashed into the Bordertown bedroom of a converted petrol station where an elderly couple were asleep, reports news.com.au.

Hughes, from Corowa in NSW, died in the accident while his partner, Erica Slovic, then 45, who was asleep in the truck’s cabin, was cut from the wreckage. The female occupant of the residence, 67, was trapped under debris and also sustained serious injuries, while her husband was unhurt.

“He smoked little rocks, which I think was called ice, in a glass pipe,” Slovic later told the Coroner’s office.

“The last time I saw him smoke some ice was the night of the collision and before we left Millicent … I had been telling Darren that he needed to take a proper break, but he just ignored me.”

Slovic lodged a death benefits claim of $504,350 against his employer, Paramount Freightlines, but workers compensation insurer GIO declined liability on the basis that Hughes was under the influence of ice and therefore not acting within the course of his employment.

Santone Lawyers, representing Slovic, appealed the decision in the Workers Compensation Commission.

Lawyers reconstructed the events leading up to the accident to show that Hughes was subject to a gruelling schedule and had not slept for two days prior.

Workers Compensation Commission arbitrator John Wynyard noted that it could not be said that the deceased’s conduct was entirely foreign or repugnant to his employment.

In a statement to the commission, Hughes’ mother, Marie Hughes, claimed her son had told her “that he was using drugs whilst working at Paramount and that he was using them to get his driving done because of the pressure put on him by the management at Paramount to get to places”.

Paramount owner Blake Milford has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and stressed that his company has a zero-tolerance policy towards drug taking.

Santone Lawyers principal Carmine Santone told news.com.au that the decision was a “wake-up call to trucking companies that they will be held liable for injuries or death arising from noncompliance with driver safety and minimum rest break protocols”.

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