The Willunga Coach Accident in 1889

Event Dates:

18 September 1889

An inquest was held at the courtroom Willunga on September 19 by Mr. W. Blacker on the body of Mrs. Mary Ann Bastian, who was accidentally killed by a coach accident on the previous day.

Atkinson, Thomas, farmer, of Willunga, deposed that he had known the deceased (Mrs. Bastian) about 48 years, the whole of which time she had resided in Willunga. On Wednesday afternoon he was in the Old Bush Inn yard and saw Mrs. Bastian sitting in the coach, and had a chat with her. The driver at this time was harnessing the two horses to the coach. He had finished this work with the exception of fastening the off trace when the horses made a bound forward to get away. The driver Mr. Charles Thomas Shilton grasped the handle of the brake and hung on to it until thrown down. Considered he acted pluckily in hanging on as long as he did, as he was in great danger. The horses at this time were travelling at the rate of quite 10 miles an hour. On the driver falling, a witness ran up and asked if he was hurt. He said he was not, but he appeared dazed. Knowing Mrs. Bastian was in the coach witness at once went to his buggy, which was standing in the yard, and followed the coach as quickly as possible, but it had travelled a good way and the horses were galloping erratically. On turning the corner went along the main road for a little way, and saw the deceased in the road, supported by Mr. Jacobs. She ‘was bleeding at the ears. Went away to obtain a trap to take the deceased home, and on his return, five minutes later, was told that she was dead. Dr. McGowan was then present, and with his assistance moved her to her house, Did not consider any blame was attachable to any one. Mrs, Bastian had informed witness that the intended visiting her children in Victoria. Did not think the accident would have happened had the driver had the assistance of an ostler. Considered persons acted foolishly by getting in or on a coach before the driver had taken his teat. Did not think driver had any assistance in harnessing and patting in the horses.

S. J. Jacobs, storekeeper’s assistant, said he was waiting for the coach to pass on Wednesday afternoon, when he observed that the mail coach had bolted with no driver. When coach was opposite his shop saw Mrs. Bastian inside. She was throwing up her hands and crying out, but could not understand what she said. Immediately jumped on a horse that was standing at the shop and followed the coach. When the latter was opposite Mrs. H. Chenoweth’s noticed deceased fall out. Could not say if she jumped out. Went at once aid picked her up. Thought she was dead, but’ she moved her shoulders three times. Blood was flowing out of her ear, mouth, and nose. Took her bonnet off, as he thought perhaps it was impeding her breathing. Held her in a sitting position until assistance arrived. Then went in pursuit of the coach, and found on arrival at Lawrence’s that the horses were out of the coach and being held by several men. Thought as the horses passed him at the shop that both traces were unfastened. The coach door was open when the deceased fell out. Saw marks on the road as if the body had been dragged, but do not think it was.

Dr. Robert McGowen deposed that when he was called to deceased she was quite dead. The cause of death was fracture of the base of the skull. Thought the body was dragged a short distance

The coroner here read a telegram from Inspector Shaw stating that the driver would be unable owing to illness, to attend for the purpose of giving evidence for a week, and the inquest was adjourned until Wednesday, 25 September.


1889 ‘THE WILLUNGA COACH ACCIDENT‘, South Australian Chronicle 28 September, p. 23. , viewed 25 Jan 2024,

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