By Sean Car
Melbourne East Police believe “engineering issues” were to blame for an accident, which left one its police members in a critical condition.
The 33-year-old senior constable suffered severe injuries to the left side of his face in the early hours of June 16, when a pedestrian barrier pierced through his police van at the tram stop outside Federation Square.
The Melbourne East divisional van was travelling north along the tramlines when it struck the central pedestrian rail, which speared through the windscreen and out the back of the vehicle.
The driver underwent several hours of specialist surgery at the Alfred Hospital as a result of the collision, while his accompanying passenger, a 30-year-old constable, escaped with minor injuries.
Acting Snr Sgt Giovanni Travagliri told CBD News that the incident occurred as a result of an “engineering issue” with Yarra Trams infrastructure, and that he was confident that an enquiry would show police were not at fault.
Spokesman for Yarra Trams Simon Murphy said the barrier outside Federation Square, which was a the centre of the accident, was one of nine other barriers on Melbourne’s tram network that were designed to prevent commuters from crossing the tracks.
Installed in 2007, he said the steel barrier was the oldest of its kind on the network and that its condition would be examined as part of Yarra Trams’ own investigation with Public Transport Victoria (PTV).
“No one can recall an incident like this in the past,” he said. “These barriers have been in place for up to 10 years and these kinds of incidents are extremely rare.”
“The barriers were built to all construction standards, trams have been operating safely, and emergency vehicles have passed through there safely on numerous occasions in the past.”
Mr Murphy said all police and emergency services were consulted prior to the installation or construction of any new tram stop infrastructure.
The tram operator has since conducted an audit of the nine other similar barriers as part of Transport Safety Victoria’s (TSV) investigation, which will be complete by the middle of this month.
CBD West Police Commander Dean Stevenson said the van had responded to an emergency call from Ambulance Victoria in East Melbourne at the time of the incident, which had requested assistance with a difficult patient.
He said, at that point in its investigation, there was nothing to suggest police were at any fault.
“They were travelling along the tram tracks, which is not unusual for emergency vehicles in the city,” he said. “There is nothing to indicate that he was doing anything other travelling at the speed limit to a job.”
“From the one witness we have spoken to at this stage, they were travelling at 40km an hour and we’ve got some CCTV footage that shows that they were travelling pretty much at the speed limit.”
Commander Stevenson described the incident as “a very close call” and said police were still appealing to witnesses as part of its investigation.
Anyone with any information is being urged contact Crime Stoppers.