Coro­ner frus­trated by third quad bike death


The death of a South Waikato farmer in the lat­est of a string of quad bike ac­ci­dents has left New Zealand’s chief coro­ner frus­trated about the lack of con­crete ac­tion taken to pre­vent deaths.

Gary Tantrum, a 44-year-old farm­hand, was shift­ing cows on steep ground at a dairy farm in McLean Rd, Man­gakino on Tues­day, when his bike top­pled over and pinned him.

Mr Tantrum, who with his part­ner had three young chil­dren, died at the scene.

Chief coro­ner Neil Maclean was on duty on the day of the crash and, when he heard news of Mr Tantrum’s death, ad­mit­ted he thought: ‘‘Oh dear, here we go again’’.

His death is the third quad bike fa­tal­ity since Box­ing Day and he is the sec­ond farmer to die this year.

Judge Maclean said it was frus­trat­ing that coroners had been mak­ing calls for changes over quad bike safety, yet there had been few con­crete re­sults.

‘‘But we have to be real­is­tic and say our job is to be look­ing at the case and call­ing it as we see it. We say what we think needs to be said...and it’s for oth­ers to do what’s ap­pro­pri­ate.

‘‘We can’t pre­tend we have all the an­swers.’’

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment there have been 29 work-re­lated quad bike deaths be­tween 2006 and 2012, in­clud­ing six in Waikato. An av­er­age of 850 peo­ple are in­jured on quad bikes each year and since Jan­uary there has been a spate of ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing quad bikes in the Waikato.

In the most re­cent non-fa­tal in­ci­dent, a 36-year-old Parawera man suf­fered se­ri­ous chest and back in­juries af­ter his quad bike rolled about 20 me­tres down a steep pad­dock on a farm south­east of Te Awa­mutu.

Judge Maclean agreed more needed to be done to im­prove safety and has ap­pointed Whangarei coro­ner Brandt Short­land to an­a­lyse sev­eral quad bike deaths in North­land in 2010.

Although Judge Maclean said the jury was still out on roll-bars, and seat­belts were con­tro­ver­sial be­cause of the way they re­stricted move­ment, he sup­ported com­pul­sory hel­mets, proper train­ing for quad bike users and ban­ning chil­dren from rid­ing on them.

But Waikato Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent James Houghton said safety mes­sages were get­ting through to farm­ers.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple just be­lieve that it hap­pens to other peo­ple.’’

Mr Houghton said a cul­ture of safety needed to come from the own­ers and from the top down.

‘‘We need to sell the story: you aren’t in­vin­ci­ble and you really do need to think about how you be­have.’’

Mr Houghton said a lot of younger rid­ers were safety-con­scious, whereas a lot of older farmhands had been slow to em­brace change.

How­ever, Mr Tantrum’s em­ployer, sharemilker Graeme Lam­bert, said Mr Tantrum was wear­ing a hel­met and was an ex­pe­ri­enced rider.

He had worked at the prop­erty since Novem­ber and was de­scribed by his former em­ployer as very fam­ily-ori­ented.

‘‘He loved the farm, loved the kids of course. He was just a de­cent, fam­ily man really.’’

An am­bu­lance was called to the ac­ci­dent about 8.55am on Tues­day.

Mr Lam­bert said the death had been a shock.

‘‘It could have been any one of us.’’

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