Council charged in mower death

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 10/04/2014
Uetaha Ransfield-Wanoa
TRAGIC ACCIDENT: Four-year-old Uetaha Ransfield-Wanoa was killed after falling under a mower.

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Hastings District Council has been charged over the death of a 4-year-old boy beneath a council lawnmower.

WorkSafe New Zealand yesterday told The Dominion Post a charge had been laid this week against the council.

The matter will be called in Hastings District Court later this month.

The council was told of the charge on Tuesday, six months to the day after the accident which killed Uetaha Dahtanian Ransfield-Wanoa in Kirkpatrick Park on October 8.

A council worker who was driving the tractor-pulled mower has pleaded not guilty to a separate police charge of reckless driving causing death.

The 72-year-old man, whose name is suppressed, is due to appear in Napier District Court next month.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said that the man was still employed by the council, which had been helping with his legal costs.

Uetaha was playing at the park with his cousins when he was hit. Onlookers said that he appeared to be sucked into the mower's blades.

The accident was witnessed by his 8-year-old uncle and other children, who ran to get help. Uetaha died at the scene.

His family described him as a bubbly, cheeky boy with a mischievous grin, "who was loved by everyone".

A WorkSafe NZ spokesman said an investigation had been completed in the past 10 days.

The council had been charged under Section 15 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act, which requires employers to "take all practicable steps to ensure that no action or inaction of any employee while at work harms any other person".

If found guilty, the council could face a maximum fine of $250,000. WorkSafe has not charged the employee.

Yule said he had not seen the charge, so could not comment on the council's response.

"This was a tragedy all around. The charges are a consequence of such a tragedy. A child lost his life and the council is caught up in the aftermath of that."

Uetaha's parents could not be contacted for comment.

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- The Dominion Post

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