Workmate could not save man trapped under tractor
As a Taihape farmhand lay dying under his tractor, he asked a fellow worker to stay with him.
But the other man knew Henry Manukau Whale needed help and as cellphone coverage was poor, he ran to the cattle yards to raise the alarm.
But nothing could save Mr Whale and he died on March 8, 2011, aged 43, on Mangahone Station.
In findings released by Coroner Tim Scott yesterday, the death was put down to "crush asphyxia".
Mr Scott doubted Mr Whale could have been helped even if the other worker, Richard Henson, could have called for help sooner.
An inquest into Mr Whale's death heard that the tractor would normally only be driven on flat land around the main house, but on the day in question, Mr Whale had been asked to help with pulling another tractor that was stuck.
When he was following Mr Henson, Mr Whale couldn't negotiate a corner and veered up a steep track, where the tractor rolled.
Mr Scott said it was not known why this happened, but noted that the tractor had a problem with its brake pedals two weeks before the accident.
"The tractor, when it rolled, was likely to trap Mr Whale. It did and it caused him to suffer crash injuries," Mr Scott said.
The tractor had a roll bar at the back, but not the front, nor did it have a seatbelt.
"When the accident occurred and the tractor rolled on Mr Whale he was alive but in a bad way [and] he was trapped under the vehicle. Mr Henson could not free him."
Mr Henson told the inquest his cellphone reception was bad and he decided to go for help.
Despite Mr Whale asking him to stay, Mr Scott said Mr Henson's actions were "totally appropriate".
"There was nothing he could do by remaining with Mr Whale other than stand and watch events develop, and they were not good events to watch."
Mr Henson headed to the cattle yards 10 minutes away and raised the alarm. It took another 10 minutes for help to arrive.
Mr Scott said radio equipment for farm workers could have allowed Mr Henson to call for help sooner. The coroner recommended station management consider providing such radios.
However, saving eight or nine minutes would not have made a difference in this "sad scenario"; the nearest hospital is in Palmerston North and Mr Whale could have instead died in the arms of his rescuers or in the rescue helicopter.
Mr Whale's mother Dianne told the Manawatu Standard she accepted Mr Scott's ruling.
"There's nothing much they could do about it," she said.
"I'm not angry. It's a waste of time being angry. It was an accident so no one can be blamed for that."
Mrs Whale said her son was born and raised in Taihape and would come to stay with her during weekends when he wasn't working.
"I looked forward to having him home. He was my right-hand man for things I needed doing around the house. He is missed very much, he was my Mr Fix-it."
Mr Whale had worked at the station for about four years and enjoyed it there, his mother said.
Mr Scott said: "The situation here is that a very zealous employee, a very well-respected and a very good employee, went above and beyond the call of duty, if I can put it this way, to help out and to attend to recover another vehicle."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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