Sandstone memorial facing inquest scrutiny after toddler death
A NSW coroner is investigating the death of a three-year-old girl who was crushed by a sandstone war memorial that fell on her while she was playing with friends.
Deputy state coroner Liz Ryan opened an inquest today at the Newcastle Local Court into the death of Indy Lee Henderson, who was killed in November 2016 at Blackhead Bowling Club on the NSW mid-north coast.
The inquest is expected to focus on the decision to build the 425kg monument, its construction and maintenance.
Indy, from the western Sydney suburb of Airds, had been attending a 50th birthday party for her grandmother, Shiralee Walker, when the accident happened.
The coroner told Ms Walker and Indy's mother, Tamica Harrower, she knew Indy was a much-loved little girl and hoped the inquest would provide answers about what happened on that day at Hallidays Point.
Counsel assisting the coroner, Anna Mitchelmore SC, told the inquest Indy had been described by her mother as a "happy kid, always laughing and having a joke".
Ms Mitchelmore anticipated evidence would show the monument's headstone was "structurally unstable" when it collapsed and fell on top of Indy.
She said there was conflicting evidence as to how the headstone, which was built in 1997, had been dislodged but it seemed a child or children had been sitting on top of the monument and "may have been rocking".
It appeared the headstone was not securely fixed to the monument's base, Ms Mitchelmore said.
Indy was taken to the Manning Rural Referral Hospital after the accident but she was pronounced dead that night.
"The critical issue in this inquest relates to how the headstone was fixed to the base," Ms Mitchelmore said.
She said it appeared silicone had been used as the only fixing agent, not cement mortar.
If cement had been used to anchor the headstone to the base, it would not have dislodged from the monument the way it did, Ms Mitchelmore said.
The inquest continues.