MANDATORY pre-payment of late night taxi fares should be introduced to avoid tragedies like the death of Jeremy Novotny, a coroner said during an inquest yesterday.
Deputy Coroner Paul MacMahon said he would make recommendations to the Transport Minister to mandate pre-payments of taxi fares between 11pm and 5am, similar to a system being trialled on the central coast.
He found Mr Novotny, 21, of Engadine, died from severe head injuries after he jumped from a taxi to avoid paying a fare at Kirrawee in October, 2010.
He had been drinking with friend Logan McGlincy on a night out in Cronulla.
‘‘Had such a system been in place on this occasion perhaps Jeremy and Mr McGlincy would have taken an alternative course of action rather than trying to evade the fare,’’ Mr MacMahon said.
‘‘Such a course of action could have meant that Jeremy’s life wasn’t lost’’.
Mr MacMahon said he did not find the taxi driver, Admir Mutapcic, was responsible for Mr Novotny’s death.
Mr Mutapcic’s actions did not amount to dangerous driving or failing to render assistance.
Mr Novotny’s father Vlasta sat devastated outside State Coroner’s Court in Glebe yesterday with a group of about 20 family and friends.
‘‘I’m devastated — I just can’t believe the truth didn’t come out,’’ Mr Novotny said.
‘‘For me, someone who killed my son got away with it and he’ll have to live with it.
‘‘I think not only me, but the public will be very disappointed.’’
A packed gallery at the inquest heard Mr Novotny and Mr McGlincy decided to ‘‘do a runner’’ on Johnson Avenue.
Mr MacMahon said it was likely the driver was aware Mr McGlincy had left the taxi and slammed the door.
There was some sort of argument, and Mr Admir drove off with Mr Novotny still inside. Mr Novotny then fell from the taxi, at a speed between 13km/h and 21km/h, and landed head first.
The testimony of several witnesses stated there was an argument and Mr MacMahon accepted the evidence as truthful.
Mr Admir told the court he realised the two passengers ‘‘disappeared’’ only when he felt the wind from an open door.
He said he turned into Hunter Street and had no idea anyone had been injured.
Regardless of the versions the court found Mr Novotny had made the decision to leave the taxi, which resulted in his death.
Mr MacMahon said he believed a pre-payment system should differ from one being trialled where taxi drivers were given the discretion to decide whether or not they would make a passenger pay before they drove.