Teen girl killed in quad bike tragedy


5:30 AM Tuesday Nov 9, 2010

On average, riders lose control of quad bikes on 12,645 occasions a year, resulting in 1400 injuries. Photo / Greg Bowker

On average, riders lose control of quad bikes on 12,645 occasions a year, resulting in 1400 injuries. Photo / Greg Bowker

A teenage girl was yesterday killed while riding a quad bike on a farm – a week after the Government started a safety campaign to lower the farm vehicle’s death and injury toll.

The 17-year-old farmhand was found about 2.30pm on a hilly part of a farm at Cape Foulwind, near Westport, pinned under her overturned vehicle. She died at the scene.

The girl drove the quad bike, towing a trailer-load of fertiliser, to a remote part of the farm at 11am.

When she did not return, worried workmates began searching for her on the Landcorp-owned property.

Police and Department of Labour investigators were last night at the farm, on Wilson’s Lead Rd.

Ten Westport firefighters responded to the emergency call-out, but Chief Fire Officer Pat O’Dea said there was nothing they could do for the teenager.

“It was like every accident when a young person is tragically lost,” said Mr O’Dea. “It’s sobering, and certainly heartfelt for the families. There’s a sense of not being able to do anything.

“Usually if we are called to an accident we are able, 90 per cent of the time, to extract people or help them one way or another.

“Sometimes it’s just beyond it, and that was one of those cases. It’s quite tragic, without a doubt – it’s a terrible waste.”

The teenager’s death has been referred to the coroner.

In July, Wellington coroner Ian Smith said when investigating the 2008 death of beekeeper Jody Santos that he was “at his wit’s end” over attitudes to quad bike safety.

Mr Smith, who has been a coroner for 17 years, told the inquest he himself had been raised in a rural environment and had an engineering background.

He made an impassioned plea for a dramatic improvement to New Zealand’s lax attitudes to quad bike safety.

He called for minimum safety requirements for quad bikes, including full or partial roll bars, lap belts and the compulsory use of safety helmets.

“For goodness sake, why can we not get these three simple, lifesaving things on a quad bike?” Mr Smith said.

Last week, Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson opened a campaign aimed at reducing serious injuries and deaths on farms from quad bike accidents.

Every year on average, five people die and 850 are injured riding the vehicles on farms.

The Government campaign encourages farmers to follow safety steps.

Ms Wilkinson said farmers who didn’t follow these risked penalties under the Health and Safety in Employment Act if someone working on their farm was seriously injured or killed.

“Quad bikes are often referred to as all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs. But they can’t go everywhere and do everything,” she said.

“Riders need to respect their limits and follow the safety instructions in their owner’s manual.”

Otago University research has found that on average, riders lose control of quad bikes on 12,645 occasions a year, resulting in 1400 injuries, not all of which are reported.

Safety steps

The new campaign encourages farmers to follow four safety steps:

* Wear a helmet.

* Ensure riders are trained and/or experienced.

* Don’t let children ride adult quad bikes (more than 90cc).

* Obey towing and passenger limits.

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