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Mareeba police say caravan couple died on rural road which is not for towing newcomers

July 24, 2009
Mareeba police say caravan couple died on rural road which is not for towing newcomers

Mareeba Police said today that the Kennedy Development Road between Mt Garnet and Greenvale Queensland is not for newcomers to caravan towing.

There are mines in the area and road trains use the road 24 hours every day Mareeba Police said.

Tourists, South-Eastern Queensland couple Gayle Tear, 64, and Antony Tear, 66, died as a result of a three vehicle collision on the Kennedy Development Road last Friday morning.

Gayle Tear is thought have been at the wheel of the couples Nissan Patrol travelling south. A road train was approaching heading north. A Troop Carrier was following the Road Train.

It is thought that the Tears pulled partly off the single-lane bitumen road strip to allow the road train to pass which put their big dual-axle caravan partly in the dirt, corrigations and gravel of the steep rural road shoulder.

Mareeba police said driver skill and experience is needed to control vehicles in these challenging circumstances on rural roads like the Kennedy Development Road between Mt Garnet and Greenvale. Mareeba police said they are aware of numerous near (miss) scares.

The north bound 4WD collided with the passenger side of the Tears Nissan Patrol tow vehicle.

The ensuite and allGoSee JaycoSterling 23 (left) weighs about 2700kg loaded for the road and puts about270kg on the towball with water tanks full. GoSee uses a Hayman Reese Weight Distribution Hitch and Friction sway control unit. The big Toyota dieselis essential.

The Tablelander reports that Mareeba Police District Acting Inspector Richard Kroon said - The Nissan Patrol received significant damage to the passenger side of the vehicle resulting in both people dying at the scene, Inspector Kroon said.

People travelling through the area are likely to encounter a large variance in weather and road conditions and police are appealing to people to drive to these conditions, Mareeba Police District Acting Inspector Richard Kroon said in a report in the Tablelander.

Mareeba police said road train drivers often struggled to keep their rigs on track if they had to leave the single bitumen stripon the Kennedy Development Road .

Unfortunately police said some travellers try to stare-down the 300 tonne trucks and hug the single-lane bitumen strip.

GSA  Jayco Sterling  and TD Toyota Sahara on road near Jerilderie
GSA Jayco Sterling and TD Toyota Sahara on road near Jerilderie

A friend of Gayle and Anthony Tear told GoSee today that the couple had taken 12 months to decide on their caravan and tow vehicle combination.

They were careful people and they would have prepared thoroughly, he said. They had done short trips into north New South Wales and the south east corner of Queensland. This was their first big trip before heading off around Australia, he said.

I think it would be helpful to alert people to the risks of towing big caravans, he said.

Pictured (right) The GoSee Toyota Sahara with WDH and Friction Sway Control fitted.

Cairns Weekend Post reports that Far Northern Region Traffic Co-ordinator, Inspector Bob Waters, said half of the region's fatalities had happened in the Mareeba District. He urged drivers to take extreme care on regional roads.

Inspector Waters said unless more people take more responsibility on Far Northern roads, the region was on track to record one of its worst road tolls on record.

The accident took the regions road toll to 28.

The tragedy has saddened the caravan community and brought thoughts on travelling safety from experienced GoSee Forum users.

From their friend Beagle:

They were the nicest people you could meet, however it was inexperience and just bad luck that caused the event.

I believe it was an oncoming semi trailer passing, that they moved off the road for, the wind pressure rocking the van causing instability on the road shoulder and the rest is history.

Hayman Reese WDH and Friction Sway Control
Hayman Reese WDH and Friction Sway Control

The only consolation is they both went together. It may serve as a warning that starting off being a nomad with a reasonably big rig may not be a good thing and it should be something one considers after several years of experience with smaller caravans.

Talk to the salesman and you are told the customer is always right when they want the biggest and best first up. Personally, five years later, I am still towing a camper trailer instead of a caravan because of the problems that can happen on the road with larger units. They will be greatly missed by those who knew them.

Pictured (left) the GoSee travelling office the Jayco Discovery pop-top weighs about 1400kg loaded for the road and puts about 100kg on the towball. In this case we are towingwith the GoSee Captiva. We also use the GoSee Retro Toyota HJ60. Both vehicles make a snack of the lighttow job.

Ozzie-traveller said today:

Around Oz, and especially through much of outback Qld, there are still many roads put down in the 1950s and 1960s using a single width of bitumen of about 3.5metres width.

Such roads (either in full or for short lengths) are found all over the outback, but as parts of major highways are found today as the roads from Georgetown to Normanton; Normanton to Cloncurry; Mt Garnet via The Lynd to Charters Towers; Mt Isa to Boulia; Boulia to Winton.

GSA and Jayco Discovery make Bakery stop in Holbrook NSW
GSA and Jayco Discovery make Bakery stop in Holbrook NSW

When on these narrow roads and I see another vehicle coming towards me, I make a practice of pulling off the bitumen completely and slowing down to about walking speed.

Sometimes the road edges are bumpy and the roadside verge has a steep angle to assist rainwater drainage. For my motorhome, this presents few issues with vehicle control, but for many caravans this is not the case.

If the vehicle coming towards me is towing a caravan, I radio [UHF-18 40] for them to stay on the bitumen. However as many travellers do not have UHF, all too often I see the caravan slewing (sometimes wildly) across their half of the bitumen as they try to move over to the left while still travelling at road speed (although they might also slow to about 60-70-80kmh).

GoSee regular and acknowledged old head Kenmlr said:

I am deeply sorry for you Beagle and I find your posting a timely reminder to us all and those who are thinking of taking Off to fullfill their hopes and dreams in retirement.

Just because we have managed to get old and probably been driving cars for years does not make us experts in towing large rigs or driving large motorhomes. Like most things, easy does it, practice and a little training doesn't hurt either.

Editors Note: Here are some helpful thoughts from a truckie from the GoSee library of free information Articles on how we can share the roads of Australia safely.

GoSee first big rig passes road train near Blackall Queensland
GoSee first big rig being passed by road train near Blackall Queensland