A seat belt may have saved the life of a 70-year-old Sawyers
Bay farmer if he had been wearing it when he lost control of
his utility vehicle on a farm track in March, a coroner's
inquest in Dunedin heard yesterday.
Kenneth Robert (Ken) Laing died on March 9, 2012, aged 70.
On March 8, he was told by a doctor to rest until the cause
of his ill health might be determined through blood tests. He
ignored the advice and spent the afternoon cutting and
pressing hay on a neighbouring farm.
About 3pm, his wife, Rose Laing, went to the property in
search of him, and found his utility wedged in a gully off a
gravel road on the farm.
Mr Laing was slumped forward in the driver's seat and was
unresponsive, so Mrs Laing called an ambulance.
Giving evidence at the inquest, Mrs Laing said she could not
recall whether Mr Laing was wearing his seat belt when she
found him, but she thought it unlikely given he had been
driving on a private farm where he had to get in and out of
the vehicle to open and close gates.
If driving on a public road, Mr Laing wore his seat belt, she
He was a stoic, stubborn character who hardly ever got sick,
and when he did he "ignored it" to continue working, she
Constable Lindsay Turner, of Port Chalmers, told the inquest
Mr Laing's death was not suspicious.
"A postmortem examination found the cause of death was
extensive severe traumatic brain injuries due to severe
impact to the head," he said.
Mr Laing was barely conscious when removed from his utility
and taken to Dunedin Hospital, where a scan revealed he had a
large brain haemorrhage, for which he underwent an emergency
operation. He was then transferred to the intensive care
unit, Const Turner said.
Mr Laing did not recover and died in the intensive care unit
about 2am on March 9.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment health and
safety inspector Peter Verwey found there were no external
factors which contributed to Mr Laing's accident and
Mr Laing's 2011 Nissan utility was in perfect working
condition and weather at the time was fine, Mr Verwey said.
"Ken's ill health may have contributed to him losing control
of the vehicle. It appears he did not take the advice of his
GP and was not wearing a seat belt.
If he had been wearing a seat belt, he may not have suffered
such severe injuries and may have survived the crash," he
Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar made an informal finding
at the inquest's conclusion.
He said all drivers should wear seat belts, even when not
legally required on private property, to keep themselves
Mr Crerar's formal findings will be released in due course.