A Queensland coroner has called for urgent safety inspections of every building awning over public footpaths in response to an accident that killed a Gold Coast man in 2012.
But the widow of Christopher Walton, 54, who died after suffering severe crushing injuries when an awning on James Street in Burleigh Heads collapsed, says the recommendations don’t go far enough.
Coroner James McDougall delivered his findings into Mr Walton’s death at Southport on Thursday.
He said the inquest had shown the community of the Gold Coast was at “significant risk” from awnings that were either too old or incorrectly constructed.
The awning’s coastal location, “unusual” construction and past water leaks in the building had contributed to the structure’s collapse, he found.
Mr McDougall recommended local authorities undertake an immediate inspection of every awning over public footpaths throughout Queensland.
He added that a taskforce should be established to implement a long-term, consistent inspection of awnings throughout the state.
Mr Walton’s widow Kerry Shepherd said the findings were insufficient in preventing a similar tragedy in the future.
“I’m not initially very happy, and I think there’s a little bit more to do,” Ms Shepherd said.
One of the key points of the accident that claimed Mr Walton’s life and injured others was the failure of the structure coming so suddenly there was no chance for those involved to escape.
Ms Shepherd says if the coroner’s recommendation of a taskforce is established she would like to make a case for all awnings to be fitted with redundancy equipment such as metal tie-backs or poles.
“You may not ever be able to stop awnings from failing but if we can stop them from catastrophically failing it gives people 20 seconds, 30 seconds to get out from under them,” she said.
“There are other structural elements that could be done … that was the way awnings were done in the good old days. Cantilever systems makes things very difficult to stop that catastrophic failing.”
Ms Shepherd also claimed the builder of the awning hadn’t come under enough scrutiny by the coroner.