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.’’