23 hours trapped under a quad bike

04:51, Jun 27 2013

Richard Hina screamed for help for two fruitless hours while pinned under his still-running quad bike in the frigid shallow water of a farm dam overflow.

"All my hope had gone and I just thought to myself, if no-one has found me by dark, just go to sleep and pray to God somebody finds you alive in the morning," the 20-year-old Feilding farm worker said.

Roughly 17 hours after the moment he lost hope and 23 hours after he became trapped, Mr Hina was found by searchers.

He had hypothermia, severe tissue damage to his left ankle, a sore jaw and broken glasses.

Much of his survival is owed to his decision to wear six layers of clothing while moving stock across the "chilly" Lethbridge Rd farm where he works, five minutes drive northeast of Feilding, about 9am on Friday.

Mr Hina puts the crash down to a small misjudgment of the steep gully ground that was amplified by him having a 50-litre tank of spray-on hooked to the back of his 500kg blue Yamaha 400 quad bike.


"It happened in a flash of about five seconds. The bike was tipping over. I jumped and tried to get myself away from it but before I knew it, it was on top of me."

With his right shoulder pinned under the front right wheel, his face whacked by the footstand and his stomach slowly being crushed, Mr Hina wriggled for his life.

Over the course of an hour he rocked the bike a few centimetres at a time until he finally worked his way into a small space where he was comfortable.

He managed to get the gumboot off his left foot, but couldn't free it, or his right shoulder.

His mud-clogged cellphone was working but five attempted calls to 111 revealed he was in a "dead spot" for reception.

That's when he started screaming.

"My boss was due home roughly about lunchtime that afternoon.

"When it got to that time I screamed for about two hours non-stop to see if anyone would come."

Exhausted, Mr Hina began thinking about the good times in his past, his family and his 1-year-old daughter, Chloe.

As the afternoon deepened into night, he calmed himself down and did everything he could to keep himself alive.

"Grass soaks up quite a bit of water so what I did was I found a lump of grass and managed to break it off without getting too much dirt in it," he said.

"I soaked it up with a bit of water and rung it out the first few times and then after that used it to stay hydrated. It wasn't clean water but it was enough.

"If worse came to worse I would have started eating it but it didn't come to that.

"If I'd been out for another night I probably would have."

Remarkably, Mr Hina slept through most of the night using warmth from the fan heat from the engine of the bike, which did not cut out until 2.30am.

Only his gumbootless foot felt the full effects of the near-freezing water.

"My right leg was free at all times so I used my right leg to keep my left foot warm because that's where all the heat was escaping.

"Then when the bike turned off I used the back diff [differential] as another heating system.

"When it was running, it was too hot to touch but it slowly cooled down."

At 9am the next morning, exactly 24 hours after he was first trapped, a weak Mr Hina was finally freed by Palmerston North rescue helicopter paramedics.

Mr Hina does not remember much about the helicopter ride but hospital staff telling him his tissue-damaged ankle would feel 10 times worse than a broken bone sticks in his mind.

"It's pretty painful. Just about everyone I know has said I'm lucky to be alive and I have to agree with them. Luckily it [the quad bike] ended up on its wheels and not its handlebars."

His recovery time is expected to be a couple of weeks and he will return to work after celebrating his 21st birthday.

"Next time I go out to that paddock, I will be taking a two-wheeler because it's a lot easier to get off.

"But it [riding a quad bike] is something that eventually I'll have to get over, get back on and move forward."

Manawatu Standard