Teen's death a 'freak accident'

Last updated 05:00 18/06/2014
Zelius Venter, 14, who collided with a ute while mountain-biking near Upper Hutt last week and died on Saturday night.
LIFE CUT SHORT: Zelius Venter, 14, who collided with a ute while mountain-biking near Upper Hutt.

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A teenage cyclist who regularly blazed the mountain bike trails around Upper Hutt was killed in a freak accident with a forestry worker's ute.

Zelius Venter, 14, of Upper Hutt, rode the trails at least four times a week, and was hurtling down a steep trail at almost 60kmh near McCurdy's Rd when forestry worker David Fewtrell drove past at about 30kmh on July 12, 2012.

Fewtrell swerved in an effort to avoid the bike, but the pair collided with such force that Zelius broke his vehicle's back window. Fewtrell immediately went to the boy's aid, but he died later in Wellington Hospital.

In a report published yesterday, Wellington coroner Ian Smith found the St Patrick's College Silverstream student died of accidental head and chest injuries.

Mother Mary Ann Venter said she and husband Hannes had met Fewtrell two days after the accident, and hoped he had been able to move on from what she called a freak accident.

Her husband had told him God had used someone to come and get an angel, and unfortunately for Fewtrell, it was him. "It was just an accident . . . We still want him to know that's how we feel."

Venter said the past two years had been hard for the couple and their daughter, now 14, but the family, originally from South Africa, had been amazed by how supportive their community had been.

"It's been a tough two years, but also a very amazing time."

The second anniversary of her son's death was next month, and it was "very important to us to do something as a family, the three of us, together", she said.

The police serious crash unit found visibility of the road from the trail was only about 1.5 metres, because gorse obscured the trail exit.

Zelius' speed indicated he had no intention to slow and make sure the exit was clear before going on to the road, the unit found. His bike speedometer indicated he had reached 57kmh.

Zelius was also wearing an iPod, which could have affected his ability to hear Fewtrell's approach, the coroner said.

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- The Dominion Post

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