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Man 'cooked' to death by 122 degree heat in Australian prison van

(45 celsius)The family of an Australian Aboriginal elder who died after being "cooked" in the back of a prison van on a scorching hot day is considering suing, they said.

A coroner Friday dismissed treatment of the 46-year-old man as inhumane and a "disgrace," saying he would ask prosecutors to consider criminal charges over his death from heatstroke in Western Australia in January 2008.

The elder, known only as Mr Ward as his first name was withheld for cultural reasons, was transported 360 kilometres (225 miles) to jail in temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 F) in a van with faulty air conditioning.

Ward, who was arrested a day earlier for drink driving, spent four hours in the searing heat between the mining towns of Laverton and Kalgoorlie, suffering third-degree burns where his body touched the metal floor, the inquest heard.

Western Australia Coroner Alastair Hope found that Ward was effectively "cooked" to death and heavily criticised the state prisons department, the private security firm that operated the van and the two guards who escorted Ward.

"It is a disgrace that a prisoner in the 21st century, particularly a prisoner who has not been convicted of any crime, was transported for a long distance in high temperatures in this pod," Hope said.

The hearing was told that when Ward eventually arrived unconscious at hospital in Kalgoorlie, his body was so hot that staff were unable to cool him down. After an ice bath, which failed to save him, he had a body temperature of 41.7 degrees Celsius as opposed to a normal temperature of 37 degrees Celsius.

Ward's cousin, Daisy Ward, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday the family was considering filing a civil lawsuit against GSL, which ran the prison van fleet, for breaching its duty of care.

"The community wants to see that they are punished... for what they have done, for what they have not done," she said.

The transport company offered to travel to Ward's home town of Warburton to apologise to the family, but the family has declined the offer.

"We all said that it was too late and that... they could have come forward to us and apologised to us earlier on," Daisy Ward said.

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Added: Jun-13-2009 Occurred On: Jun-13-2009
By: bellava
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Tags: Man, 'cooked', to, death, in, Australian, prison, van
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