Inquiry to probe links in quad-bike deaths

Three quad-bike deaths in Northland in eight weeks will be investigated by a coroner to check for common links that could help prevent similar future fatalities.

Northland Coroner Brandt Shortland will hold inquests into the 2010 deaths of Arapohue farmer and builder Carlos Mendoza, 52; Marua farmer Jack McInnes, 64; and Suzanne Claudia Ferguson, 62, who all died after quad-bike accidents on farms within eight weeks of one another.

Mrs Ferguson was towing a trailer of haylage when her quad bike is thought to have rolled on steep terrain, pinning her underneath on August 9, 2010, at a Gammon Rd farm near Awarua, about 20km south of Kaikohe.

Mr Mendoza died on September 16 near Dargaville.

Mr McInnes died on September 25 when the quad bike he was using to spray weeds rolled on him at Marua.

He was riding it on a steep hill when it rolled and pinned him face-down.

Mr Shortland will hold the inquests over three days at the Whangarei Courthouse from March 26.

A spokesman for the Chief Coroner said the inquests were being heard at the same time to determine if there was anything in common among the three incidents that could then be used to improve quad bike safety.

The spokesman said it was common to hold inquests involving deaths in similar circumstances and Mr Shortland would also be hearing an inquest into a quad-bike death in Auckland in April.

An expert witness would be giving evidence at the Auckland inquest and that evidence might also have some bearing on his findings in the three Whangarei hearings.

Last year the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment launched a safety campaign after several quad-bike deaths across the country.

Every year, on average, 850 people are injured, on farms, riding quad bikes, with five deaths.

However, the number of annual deaths has risen sharply in recent years, prompting the ministry to release several safety guidelines.

The guidelines say quad bike riders must be trained/experienced enough to do the job; should choose the right vehicle for the job; always wear a helmet and children should not ride adult quad bikes.

Farmers who don't follow those safety steps risk penalties under the Health and Safety in Employment Act if someone working on their farm is seriously injured or killed.

The ministry also recommends that quad bikes be maintained in a safe condition; riders take care on slopes and rough terrain; don't exceed the capabilities of the bike; don't do tasks that interfere with safe riding and keep both hands on the bike, with eyes on the ground in front.

- Mike Dinsdale, Northern Advocate

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