Nelani Koefer inquest: inflatable dam wall had leaks before

A CORONIAL inquest into the drowning of a Blackwater girl has heard the inflatable dam wall had experienced leaks before the collapse that caused her death.

The inquest into the death of four-year-old Nelani Koefer began in Rockhampton yesterday.

Nelani drowned in the Mackenzie River after a section of an inflatable storage barrier at the Bedford Weir ruptured on November 20, 2008.

Counsel assisting barrister John Aberdeen said during the inquest evidence would be given by a witness who recalled seeing a "bubble or blister" on the inflatable section of the dam and later heard "a loud bang" which "sounded like a shotgun" as the barrier burst.

Mr Aberdeen said there would be further evidence from the person who produced a report on the incident which found the inflatable barrier had ruptured.

The inquest heard the inflatable fabridam, installed in 1997, had leaked before the 2008 incident in what Mr Aberdeen described as a "major deflation" in 2003.

A report, which SunWater's Rob Keogh agreed appeared to have been prepared after the March 2003 deflation, listed the problems experienced by the fabridam and stated manufacturing faults may have caused leakages.

The fabridam was produced by Trelleborg, which was formerly Queensland Rubber.

The inquest heard SunWater commissioned reports into the deflation, with one report leading to a quote to replace the "bags" for $622,000, plus additional installation costs.

Mr Keogh said he recalled another deflation in January 2000 and May 2003.

The inquest heard Bedford Weir was equipped with an audio alarm which could warn of water spilling over the roadway downstream from the weir.

But Mr Keogh said once the alarm was triggered, a SunWater staff member was required to log in and activate a siren which would sound at the site.

There could be a five to 10-ten minute delay between the alarm being triggered and the siren sounding.

Mr Keogh confirmed there had been no changes to this system since the 2008 incident.

Topics:  bedford weir drowning inquest nelani koefer

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