Residents of a small rural community still reeling from a beer garden crash that claimed the lives of five people claim the local council ignored safety concerns.
Five members of two young families were killed and an 11-month-old baby was injured and when an SUV ploughed through a packed pub beer garden in Daylesford, about 90 minutes’ drive north-west of Melbourne, last Sunday.
Locals have hit out at Hepburn Shire Council amid claims it ignored safety fears over the location of the beer garden on a grassy area near the historic Royal Daylesford Hotel.
Residents are calling for safety bollards to be installed at the site with some claiming on social media that safety concerns were made clear to the council years ago.
On Thursday, Victoria’s safety watchdog WorkSafe told Daily Mail Australia it had not ruled out launching an investigation into the operation of the beer garden
Unlike traditional beer gardens, the Royal’s beer garden was not located inside the boundaries of the pub.
Five members of two young families were killed and an 11-month-old baby was injured and when an SUV ploughed through a packed pub beer garden (pictured) – without any barrier between it and the road – in Daylesford, north-west of Melbourne
Residents are calling for safety bollards to be installed at the site with some claiming on social media that safety concerns were made clear to the council years ago
Pictured: A graphic showing how the horrific Daylesford beer garden car crash unfolded
‘In response to this tragic and devastating incident, WorkSafe is working to provide support to impacted workers and first responders and is assessing whether further action is required,’ WorkSafe executive director of health and safety Narelle Beer said.
The concerns of Daylesford locals have centred on the beer garden’s exposed position directly beneath a road leading up a steep hill.
The 66-year-old Mount Macedon man who was driving the car which ploughed through the beer garden is an insulin-dependent diabetic.
The driver, who is yet to be identified, returned a negative alcohol reading at the scene and was released by detectives after being interviewed.
Hepburn Shire Council chief executive officer Bradley Thomas confirmed the grassed area outside the Royal Daylesford Hotel was council-managed public land.
‘Given the central location, it has been a popular area for picnics, events and outdoor dining, with the area being used by patrons of The Royal Daylesford Hotel and the community for many years,’ he said in a statement to Daily Mail Australia.
Mr Thomas said additional furniture was placed on the grassed area during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to offer ‘greater outdoor dining options’.
He said the area was in line with ‘Victorian Government funding announcements’ and ‘not unique to Hepburn Shire’.
Hepburn Shire Council mayor Brian Hood has spent days consoling those impacted by the tragedy
Mourners lay flowers outside the Royal Daylesford Hotel. The beer garden had been positioned on the same grassy spot as this statue
A BMW SUV mowed down guests dining on the outside beer garden positioned beneath a hill near a roundabout
‘Council approved the use of the space as outdoor dining and has recently adopted a new Outdoor Dining and Trading Policy, which guides what furniture can be placed along council-owned and managed footpaths, roads and land,’ he said.
‘This policy was informed by feedback received through a community survey completed by more than 270 traders, residents and visitors.’
Mr Thomas said outdoor dining would remain a feature in the shire despite last Sunday’s tragedy.
‘However, as with any major incident, there will be an investigation and review carried out and if any recommendations are made these will be closely considered,’ he said.
The council failed to reveal how many complaints it had received from worried residents when asked by Daily Mail Australia.
‘Council has no further comment on this matter given the active Victoria Police investigation,’ the statement ended.
On Thursday, the Royal reopened its doors to guests for the first time since the horrific crash.
In a statement, pub owners Cameron Stone and Joel Morello said they were focused on the health and wellbeing of the entire community.
‘We are still in shock and so incredibly saddened by the tragic and horrific incident that occurred outside our hotel on Sunday,’ the statement read.
Residents are calling for safety bollards to be installed at the site, with many taking aim at the former Dan Andrews government over the surge of outdoor dining areas.
Mourners have taken to social media to vent their frustrations at the council’s decision to allow the beer garden to operate where it did
Some residents claimed the council had been made aware of safety concerns, but ignored them
‘During Covid, the government and councils agreed on utilising what was car parks and transformed them into seated eating areas. So basically you are sitting on the road separated by a nice looking fence which will stop nothing coming through it,’ one person commented online.
Another wrote: ‘Of all intersections, this one should have one (a safety bollard fence). Every Sunday there are a lot of people and motorcycles there that council should be held accountable.’
However, others claimed bollards would need to be placed almost everywhere to protect citizens from wayward motorists.
‘Don’t over complicate things, we risk our lives everyday we get out of bed, if you don’t feel safe sitting there don’t sit there,’ came one response.
On Wednesday, an hour-long candlelight vigil was held at The Anglican Parish of Daylesford a short stroll from where the accident happened.
Attendees inside quietly embraced as they queued to place their own candle next to the five lit in honour of victims Pratibha Sharma, her husband Jatin Chugh, and daughter Anvi, Vivek Bhatia and his son Vihaan.