The case of a Melbourne woman who died when her Volkswagen Golf was hit from behind by a truck on a freeway will be reopened, with her family set to launch an independent review of the coronial inquest into her death.
The family of Melissa Ryan has won the right to have the inquest reviewed after her stepfather Phil O’Donnell complied fresh evidence that the family believes should be considered.
“There was just so many issues from the inquest that we found were confusing and left things up in the air,” O’Donnell told ABC News.
“One of them was that it was an adverse finding on Melissa with her mobile phone and then so much information has come up later that we think needs to be tested.”
O’Donnell said the family requested the review based on new information about problems with Volkswagen vehicles that only came to light after the inquest was completed.
The coronial hearing took place before other Volkswagen drivers came forward to report power loss issues with their vehicles. Coroner Heather Spooner did receive information about the complaints, but said advice from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport did not suggest there was a systemic problem with the cars.
Spooner handed down an open finding in November, and suggested it was more likely that Ryan was distracted by a hands-free phone conversation she was having at the time of her crash.
O’Donnell said more than 300 people have reported problems with their Volkswagen vehicles, including more than a dozen who have signed statutory declarations claiming that they experienced sudden power loss in their cars.
“Volkswagen declare to the coroner they had no knowledge of prior problems with their cars and we believe that there is a fair amount of data that indicates otherwise,” he said.
“Again, you’ve got to check the models, you’ve got to check on manual and petrol, but they should be tested.
“If official consumer bodies were writing to Volkswagen six months prior to the inquest about 124 official complaints about Golf and Polo vehicles representing a systemic problem, we think that is data that is new data that should be considered by the coroner.”
In June 2013, Volkswagen Group Australia recalled almost 34,000 Audi, Skoda and Volkswagen models to correct a defect with the vehicles’ automatic dual-clutch transmissions, labelled DSG by the brand.
The recall was unrelated to vehicles such as Ryan’s, however, which was equipped with a manual transmission.
When contacted by CarAdvice this morning, Volkswagen Group Australia said it had not been advised of any review into the coroner’s findings and said it was therefore not possible to say any more on the reports.
“Volkswagen is making enquires with the coroner’s office and of course, if there is a new review, we would fully cooperate and assist as we have done in the past,” the statement reads.
“Volkswagen Group Australia fully cooperated with authorities and actively assisted the coroner in her investigations that led to the findings made public last year.
“In a statement released then, Volkswagen Group Australia said it acknowledged ‘the coroner’s findings that the vehicle did not contribute to the cause of the accident’.
“As we have not been made aware of any official review of the coroner’s findings, it would be inappropriate to comment further.
“Our sincere thoughts and sympathies remain with Melissa Ryan’s family in what continues to be a difficult period for them.
“As always, customers should contact their nearest Volkswagen dealership or call our customer care centre on 1800 607 822 if they have any specific concerns with their vehicle.”