Ballarat driver loses control of cement truck near Meredith

THE death of Ballarat man Peter Curtis near Meredith has joined a horror period on Victorian roads where 14 people died on Victoria’s roads by the 13th day of December.

Police confirmed Mr Curtis, 53, lost control on Coopers Bridge about 7.30am yesterday before falling down an embankment and into the river.

His accident was the 12th fatal accident in 13 days.

Mr Curtis’ body was still in the vehicle when emergency services arrived, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

There were no passengers in the truck.

One resident described the road as “treacherous” and said it was not the first time an accident had occurred. 

The bridge is only wide enough for one vehicle to cross at a time, while the road leading to the bridge is steep and windy.

The road is expected to be closed for the rest of the day. 

Acting Sergeant Michael Watts said there were no witnesses.

The truck was believed to be loaded with cement at the time of the accident. 

The Environment Protection Agency arrived on the scene just before midday to contain the diesel which had leaked into the river.

A spokesperson from the agency said a boom had been inserted in the water to stop further contamination and representatives from the organisation would remain on the scene until the truck was removed. 

A Worksafe representative arrived at the scene but a spokesperson has confirmed the incident is being treated as a road accident rather than workplace incident.

Acting Sergeant Watts said there would be an ongoing investigation into the incident to determine the cause.

“The towing company is here, they will go down and make an assessment,” he said.

“The truck has collided with the railing at the side and as a result has plummeted approximately seven metres and the truck landed on the riverbank,” he said.

Executive general manager for the southern region Paul Dalton said Mr Curtis had been driving the concrete agitator to a customer site.

“We are working with the police, safety and emergency authorities to understand the cause of this tragic accident,” he said. 

“We offer our sincere condolences to the family and will do all we can to assist them at this very difficult time.”

Three pedestrians have been killed so far in December, a figure that could rise with a woman fighting for her life in hospital after been hit by a car at Brighton East on Friday morning.

Road policing command Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill said the number of fatalities in such a short time frame was extremely concerning heading into the festive season.

“This is a horrible start to December, especially as we head into what we know is a high-risk time of the year on Victorian roads,” Mr Hill said.

“I don’t want to see any more ungiven gifts under Christmas tree this year, however we are likely to see another 10

deaths on our roads and potentially 250 people seriously injured.”

The warning comes as Victoria Police launch their Summer Stay road campaign, a two-month blitz aiming to reduce the road toll over the holiday season.

The campaign will target drink/drug driving, speeding, fatigue, driver distraction

and drivers not wearing a seatbelt.

Victoria’s road toll stands at 225 compared with 271 deaths at the same time last year.

matthew.dixon@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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