Probe into police role in drunk-driver’s death

Stock image.
Stock image.

RHETT Samuel McAlpine knew he was drunk when he got behind the wheel and told his younger brother he would not stop for police because he did not want to lose his licence.

Instead, the 25-year-old lost his life when he sped away from officers and ploughed into a power pole with such force that it snapped the pole in half, bringing down the line.

An inquest is examining Mr McAlpine’s death in September 2016, including considering whether police conduct during an attempted intercept caused or contributed to the crash.

Counsel assisting the coroner Fleur Allen said on Thursday that Mr McAlpine lived with his brother in Seabird, north of Perth, and drove his brother’s car because the younger sibling had lost his licence.

They went fishing in the afternoon and Mr McAlpine had some drinks, then later he had more drinks with dinner at the Gingin Hotel, the West Australian Coroners Court heard.

As Mr McAlpine drove home, he told his brother: “I am not going to stop if I see the cops, I am not losing my licence.”

Two police officers spotted Mr McAlpine driving in the opposite direction to them, travelling at 115km/h in a 110km/h zone, and noted the registered driver had a suspended licence.

The police did a U-turn and followed the car, then activated the emergency lights, but when Mr McAlpine failed to acknowledge them they also started the siren.

Mr McAlpine sped away reaching speeds of up to 160km/h, Ms Allen said.

The police vehicle accelerated alongside the car to identify the driver but eventually pulled back.

Mr McAlpine continued to speed away and the police stopped the chase, Ms Allen said.

Mr McAlpine continued to drive but took a sweeping bend too wide, then overcorrected, causing the car to crash into a wooden power pole.

The officers arrived soon after and found Mr McAlpine wedged in the driver’s seat, dead from multiple injuries, while his brother was also hurt.

Ms Allen said Mr McAlpine had a very high blood alcohol reading of 0.232 per cent.