Death of autistic boy at Kyneton a 'tragic accident', coroner rules

By Stephanie Corsetti

The death of a central Victorian autistic boy under Department of Human Services care was a tragic accident and not the result of a lack of care, a coroner has found.

Michael Patrick Ormsby, 9, died in 2010 when he ran away from his carer at Kyneton and was struck by a car.

In November 2009 DHS requested the child attend weekend respite care after the school week.

He attended a special school in Bendigo and carers drove him to and from school to the Kyneton Bushland Resort.

The court heard the centre had a playground, a pool to meet Michael's needs and his unit was the greatest distance from the road.

The nine-year-old suffered from a global development delay and had difficulty with verbal and non-verbal language.

His behaviour was unpredictable and sometimes required physical restraint.

The boy also had a fascination with leaves and trees and needed constant supervision.

His carer at the time of his death was 20-year-old Jessica Steward, who worked for Vista Support, an organisation that provides respite care and disability services.

She started looking after Michael so his primary carer Lynette Wattie could have some time off.

It is not possible to conclude a lack of care in this tragic death.

Coroner Bruce Cottrill

The court heard on the night he died, Ms Steward lost her grip on him when he bit her during a tantrum.

Michael ran into bushland towards the road and Ms Steward chased him in the dark.

An inquest into the boy's death heard Gwenda Healy was driving at 76 kilometres per hour and braked to 54km when she saw him run onto the road.

Coroner Bruce Cottrill found Michael's cause of death was road trauma from the collision.

"But no blame can be attributed to Ms Healey in this tragic accident," Mr Cottrill said.

The court heard the boy's mother suffered from a mental illness, and he had regular contact with his father at Kyneton who was suffering from a terminal illness.

Police said the father has since died.

In handing down his findings, Mr Cottrill praised Michael's primary carer Ms Wattie.

"Her support plans and strategies show significant and meaningful commitment to Michael's welfare," he said.

"It is not possible to conclude a lack of care in this tragic death."