Queensland zipline company to stand trial over death of Father Dean Sanderson in Cape Tribulation

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A company that operated a zipline tour in the Daintree Rainforest has been ordered to stand trial for reckless driving related to a 2019 incident in which a tourist dived to his death.

South Australian man Dean Sanderson was killed and his wife Shannon was seriously injured when they fell at least 16 meters during Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours at Cape Tribulation in Far North Queensland on October 22.

Prosecutors allege the zip line failed when the cable slipped through the wire rope grips used to secure it to the platform.

Engineer Stuart Davis told Cairns Magistrates’ Court he believed it happened because some nuts had not been properly tightened.

Prosecutors allege the company engaged in reckless conduct in using the cable ties contrary to Australian standards, failing to use a torque wrench to ensure the cable ties were tightened to a particular extent and failing to put implement a maintenance system involving the regular use of a key pair.

Lawyers for Keydane, the zipline company, had argued at a committal hearing that it had no case to answer.

Dean Sanderson, 50, died while ziplining in Queensland with his wife, Shannon, who was injured.(Facebook)

Tightened “to the touch” handles

The court was told the company started using the cable ties in June 2018, around 16 months before the fatal incident.

It previously used pre-made cables with crimped ends.

The court heard a former operations manager, Leigh Gallon, overseeing the installation of the cable ties, which staff typically tightened with a socket wrench.

Mr Gallon told Occupational Health and Safety investigators that the seal was checked ‘mainly by touch’ and that, although he knew an Australian standard existed, he could not recall the details .

“We discussed in the future some kind of policy that we would use a certain torque for the cable ties, but there was nothing necessarily,” Mr Gallon reportedly told investigators in an interview.

Mr. Gallon had left Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours at the time the incident occurred.

A police car from the forensic collision unit drives on a sandy road in a thick canopy.
Police at the scene of the zip line breakdown in Cape Tribulation in October 2019.(ABC News: Marianne Faa)

The defense argues that there is no evidence

Defense barrister Mitch Rawlings said prosecutors had to prove the company was aware the cable ties needed to be tightened to a torque of 35 newton meters and that they were aware of the Australian standard relevant.

He argued that there was no evidence to establish that was the case.

Mr. Rawlings also questioned some assumptions made by Mr. Davis when he tested components of the equipment after the incident.

But Magistrate Kevin Priestly, committing the company to stand trial, found a jury could infer that Mr Gallon must have known the required torque had to be maintained and was indifferent to a risk of injury serious or death if this did not happen. .

“I emphasize that these are not conclusions as to the outcome,” Mr. Priestly said.

The Sandersons were among 12 people on the zipline tour.

Another man was injured as he descended to safety from an elevated platform after the couple fell.

If found guilty, the company faces a maximum penalty of $3 million.

No date has yet been set for the trial in the district court.

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