Roll bar not engaged in fatal tractor accident: coroner

The tractor that tipped over and landed on a Central Otago man did not have its rollover protection system engaged, a coroner says.

James Henry Linwood, 66, was spraying fungicide at a vineyard in the Earnscleugh area near Alexandra, on January 22, 2021, when a witness saw him being flung off the machine before it rolled twice and landed on him, causing fatal injuries.

The experienced heavy machinery operator’s employer was contracted by the vineyard’s owner to carry out mowing, weed control and other work.

A police investigation found the tractor’s rollover protection system was not in the raised position at the time of the accident.

After seeing tyre marks on a steep bank between the vineyard and a dwelling, police concluded the angle of the bank and loose surface conditions were contributing factors to the accident.

The weight of a tank fitted to the back of the tractor had made it more likely to tip over in such a situation.

A WorkSafe investigation concluded Mr Linwood’s failure to engage the rollover protection system was contrary to the tractor’s operating manual, and the company’s staff had been instructed to use the system at all times.

Although there was no seatbelt fitted to the tractor, WorkSafe found his employer had not breached health and safety law.

In his decision, coroner Marcus Elliott said it was "more probable than not" the tractor had tipped and rolled because of the slope of the bank.

He noted a seatbelt would have protected Mr Linwood only if the roll bar had been in the raised position.

Mr Elliott did not make any recommendations arising from the accident.