Day 2 of the Mike Hall Coronial Inquest
In the public interest
There were a number of witnesses in Court on Day 2 today – in fact, ten witnesses in all. In this summary, for simplicity, we have grouped these witnesses, thus they will not be discussed in the order of their appearance.
The first grouping only includes Senior Constable Potts, Chief Investigator for the AFP. Next we report on two expert witnesses, one reporting on fatigue, and the other reporting on road design.
Following that, we cover the only private witness, who was the media manager for the IPWR. We then conclude with summaries from seven motoring witnesses who saw a cyclists on the Monaro Hwy that morning – three who appeared in person and three who gave evidence via phone linkups.
SENIOR CONSTABLE POTTS
Senior Constable Potts took the stand. He was the AFP Officer in charge of the investigation.
From the Abdullah Zainab documentary video, Senior Constable Potts today agreed that there were four reflective elements on Mike’s bike: a front light, a rear light, a rear reflector, and a reflective element on his helmet.
Senior Constable Potts refused to concede that this was a better representation of how Mike’s bike appeared. He would only concede that it too was a good representation, as was the AFP’s recreation video of Mike’s bike which only showed a dull rear light.
In cross examination, Senior Constable Potts was asked about the lux (light coverage or lit area) of the front light of the driver's car, and whether the driver had been over-driving? The Coroner said that the lux topic had already been dealt with, and that Potts was not an expert regarding over-driving.
There is still confusion whether another car was in front or behind or beside the driver, or if another car was even present. In the notes made by Senior Constable Potts at the hospital the day of the crash, the driver mentioned “a car in front”. In subsequent interviews, the driver did not mention a vehicle “in front”. This discrepancy was not followed up by the AFP.
In a yet-to-be-presented driver statement (driver 7), the driver who was waiting to turn onto the Monaro Hwy mentioned that he thought he saw a few cars coming towards him on the Monaro Hwy from the south. In a second interview, this driver stated he couldn’t remember if there were one or two cars coming. Senior Constable Potts conceded that if there had been a car in front of the driver, this could have affected the driver’s visibility.
Senior Constable Potts was questioned again on what the driver could see in front of him from his low beam front lights. This distance grew over the various interviews, from 15 metres to half of a 100-metre football field. No further testing of the car lights took place.
There was evidence from the mobile phone service provider that there had been no cellular-based mobile phone calls or texts between 4am and the time of the crash. Senior Constable Potts was asked if the mobile phone had been seized as evidence by the AFP. It had not. When asked if the phone had been used for data-based calls or for music apps, Senior Constable Potts was first surprised by the question, but then admitted that the phone had not been seized or tested for data usage. When asked about driver distraction, Senior Constable Potts said that this was a consideration. When asked if the mobile phone should have been seized, Senior Constable Potts said “Yes”.
It had been inferred that Mike may have been swerving on the road. When Senior Constable Potts was asked about the angle at which Mike’s titanium bike frame was impaled into the left side of the car’s bonnet, he agreed that it was at a straight angle and that the bike therefore would have been travelling in a straight line and not swerving.
Senior Constable Potts stated that the driver was offered an interpreter but didn’t want one. Senior Constable Potts said that he thought the driver’s English fluency was adequate.
When asked if the Abdullah Zainab documentary video was more likely to be more accurate [that the AFP reconstruction bike video], Senior Constable Potts replied “Yes”.
At the end of this cross examination, Senior Constable Potts was thanked for his time by the Coroner and dismissed.
THE EXPERT WITNESSES
An expert on fatigue made the following statements:
- There was no baseline for him to establish whether Mike was fatigued during the IPWR, based on
footage of Mike in Abdullah Zainab’s documentary video.
- In advanced fatigue, decision-making is impaired, much like being intoxicated. However, there is
nothing in the literature to say whether this can happen on a bike. A bigger problem occurs when
people are sedentary like pilots or motor vehicle drivers.
- Fatigue is a separate physiological condition from exhaustion. The expert couldn’t say whether
fatigue and exhaustion interacted at all.
- There is no research available into how bike riding is affected by fatigue. Typically extreme fatigue
- When asked if elite athletes might be less affected by fatigue due to training to deal with it, the expert stated that training for fatigue could play a limited roll in coping with fatigue, but that he was unaware of any research evidence either way. Potentially you are able to train to better deal with fatigue.
- It is difficult to identify if someone is fatigued. Usually you just observe the person. Or ask them if they are fatigued. “It is not scientific at all.”
- When asked if the driver of the car may have been fatigued after sleeping seven hours, from 9:30 to 4:30, and waking up during that period to a new born baby, and then driving in the dark, the expert said he couldn’t rule that out.
An expert on traffic signals from ACT Roads was asked to attend the crash scene.
This apparently is standard practice. When asked what his role was expected to be, he stated that his role at the crash site was to see if the line markings, etc., were correct.
He was not an expert in Austroads standard, and there was no signalisation or road lighting at this intersection. Cycle does not know why he was asked to give evidence in regard to this incident at this intersection.
Most of his answers consisted of: “I am not an expert in that area.” When asked by the lawyer from ACT Roads if the road markings were accurate at this intersection, he responded with “Yes, they were”.
Cycle stopped taking notes on this expert witness at this time.
THE ONLY PRIVATE WITNESS
The media person for the Indian Pacific Wheel Race gave evidence about her role and activities during the event. On cross examination she explained that this event was not like a regular bike race that required closed roads, police resources or public awareness of potential disruptions to public road access. It was an event that started with 70 participants, and dwindled to 42 on the morning of 31 March 2017. Uniquely, the participants rode longer distances and carried personal supplied on their bikes.
In fact, this event is no different than people commuting on public roads – sometimes at five o’clock in the morning or at nine o’clock at night, for example.
The first driver witness got in touch with AFP the afternoon of the incident. He gave his statement to AFP in September (year uncertain) because the APF didn’t get in touch with him before then. He may have been driving slower than 100 km/h as there were a lot of kangaroos about. There were pockets of fog. He has his high beams on. He said he was within the lane but that he tended to drive more to the left of his lane to avoid colliding with kangaroos on the road. Then the cyclist was “just there”.
The driver swerved to his right because he almost collected the cyclists. The cyclist was riding within the verge. But the verge was narrow there. “It was close. I can’t imagine how this felt to him [the cyclist].”
Driver 2 had extra headlights and had previously hit wildlife three times. The driver had their high beams on, and saw a cyclist on the left, quite lit up. There were no issues with visibility. The driver clearly saw white reflector stripes on the cyclist’s right arm (the left arm was not visible to the driver), but did not see any white stripe on the cyclist’s back. His legs “stood out” as his calves were exposed. The driver was travelling at 70 to 80 km/h due to the risk of wildlife on the road.
Driver 3 was travelling south from Tumut in a speed-limited truck set at 97 km/h at 4:30 am. The driver saw a white headlight coming towards him on the other side of the road. “It was pretty bright.” The driver first thought it was a car with only one headlight, or a motorcycle. The driver then realised it was s cyclists. The cyclist turned right into a service station, crossing the path in front of
the truck. The driver stated that the cyclist performed this manoeuvre close to the truck, but the driver felt there was no need to apply any brakes.
Driver 4 had high beams on, because of the risk of hitting wildlife. “It’s a bit of a dangerous drive, really.” He was driving at the posted speed limit, which was 100 km/h. The driver said he saw a cyclist wearing dark clothes, with no lights (possibly a dull red rear light), no reflective equipment, and no helmet. (Let’s leave this one here.)
Driver 5 was driving at 100 km/h using cruise control. The driver thought he saw the white eyes of a deer, but he didn’t brake. “I felt the white light was as bright as candlelight.” The driver didn’t see a red light or any reflective material, but kept looking for the deer. “All of a sudden I had to swerve around a cyclist. I was nearly right on him.” The driver rang CrimeStoppers within a few days. AFP
contacted him four months later for a statement.
Driver 6 had previously hit two kangaroos. He saw a something about 300-400 metres in front of him that morning. At about 200 metres it became clear that this was a cyclist. The driver moved right and safely crossed the centre line to give the cyclist the plenty of room while he overtook him. The driver observed two red lights, and a front light, but did not recall seeing any reflective material.
This image has just been supplied, it shows new leggings with reflective properties.
Please enjoy this video of Mike Hall as he was entering Cooma south of Canberra the night before he was struck.