Catholic school students in young driver tragedy

Two students from a Catholic high school in western Sydney were killed in a car accident on Friday on the way home from an end of year event in the latest tragedy involving young drivers.

The Australian reports that the two year 12 students from Loyola High School, Rajeev Gautam, 17, a P-plate driver, and Sharmini Anandappa, 18, were returning from the school formal social event when their car was in an accident with a truck at a T-intersection.

Another two students, Sharon Prasad, 17, and Washal Reddy, were in Westmead Hospital with serious injuries. Sylvia Kishor, 18, a student at St Mary's Senior High School, had also died in the accident.

"I knew something was wrong when we walked in," Sylvana Lombardi, a year 11 student, said yesterday. "The teachers were standing up the front. They were all upset. Many were crying."

A Mass was held at Loyola Senior High on Saturday. The principal, Rob Laidler, said yesterday efforts would now be directed at helping the school's 50 staff deal with the tragedy.

Sylvana Lombardi said her boyfriend was a close friend of the year 12 students and had spoken to Washal Reddy's family. They had said that although Washal was conscious they had decided for the time being not to tell him the full extent of the tragedy.

The State Premier, Morris Iemma, said yesterday the P-plate working group would meet this week but there were no quick fixes to solve the problem of accident prone P plate drivers.

NSW Police Commissioner, Ken Moroney, said a preliminary investigation had ruled out speed and alcohol as factors causing the crash.

"Let me again simply implore each and every one of our motorists, but particularly our young and inexperienced motorists, to take even greater care, particularly at this time of the year," he told the Australian.

Falling gate death at Lismore Catholic college

Meanwhile, in a different tragedy involving Trinity Catholic College in Lismore, northern NSW, an inquest heard on Friday that the school was warned at least four times that one of its gates was dangerous before it fell and killed five-year-old Gabriel McBurney.

The Northern Star reports that Greg McBurney, the father of Gabriel and an employee of the school, told the inquest he had complained about the gate at least four times and on one occasion was pinned under it for 15 minutes.

Mr McBurney said the gate had slid past its stoppers and fallen on him in February last year and he had further problems with the gate leading up to his son's death seven months later.

"I landed on the ground with the gate resting on my right side and my left arm was pinned underneath my body," he told the inquest.

Mr McBurney said he reported the incident the next day and subsequent incidents to the college manager Roz Robinson.

But on a day where questioning focused on the college's Occupational Health and Safety systems, the school's principal, Brother Peter Pemble, said Mr McBurney had not followed college procedure for reporting OH&S and maintenance issues on the internal computer reporting system.

"With respect to Mr McBurney, he should have made a report," Br Peter said.

Br Peter added they had had a training session with staff to explain how to use the system.

But Mr McBurney said as catering manager he had left the training early to prepare lunch for other staff.

Yesterday Br Peter released a statement acknowledging the end of the hearing.

"It has been an emotional few days for all involved in the inquest," he said. "I sincerely wish to thank and acknowledge the staff, students and families who have supported Trinity during what remains as one of the most distressing times we have faced."

The coroner, Magistrate Nick Reimer, is expected to deliver his findings and recommendations on 23 March next year.

Teachers' tears for more young lives lost (Sydney Morning Herald, 27/11/06)

Students die celebrating end of Year 12 (The Australian, 27/11/06)

Students die celebrating end of Year 12 (Northern Star, 24/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Loyola High School, Mt Druitt
Trinity College, Lismore

27 Nov 2006