Ripped jersey Bill's legacy

KAT DUGGAN
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2014
Bill Bryant
Bill Bryant 1960 - 2014

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A Marlborough man who was killed in a logging accident just over a fortnight ago always ensured the safety of his workers by doing the tasks that were "too dangerous", those who attended his funeral heard.

Bill Bryant died on January 17 while he was leading a crew of four cutting down pine trees on a vineyard in the Wairau Valley.

Bill was the second son of Peter and the late Jessie Bryant to have a logging accident. His brother Jeff spent 20 years in a wheelchair after being injured. Jeff died in 2007 aged 49.

Bill's partner, Jo Leslie, wrote a tribute letter which was read on her behalf at the funeral last week.

Ms Leslie said Bill would always tell her he didn't want the "young fellas with young kids" to take on the risky jobs at work.

"I would say to you that you have to make sure you're careful as well, and your reply was ‘I haven't got time to die, I've got too much to live for and too much to do', and that was true, but sadly we are here today," she said.

Ms Leslie and Bill's family did not want to talk directly to the Express, but invited a reporter to the funeral because they wanted people to know what kind of man Bill was.

Speaking at the funeral, his sister, Deb Bryant, said Bill was a "trickster" who loved practical jokes.

"He had an infectious personality which people were drawn to, he loved driving fast and was mechanically minded and could fix anything," she said.

Bill was buried in a custom-designed coffin - black with silver stripes and a "Ford" emblem.

On top were three bottles of Speight's beer and an arrangement of native plants, as Bill was not into "flowery" things.

He was an avid rugby man, playing for the Pelorus Rugby Club for 20 years.

Ms Leslie said: "He was a one-eyed Ford freak, nothing else existed . . . and Speight's, loyal to Speight's."

Her son, Trent Leslie, paid tribute to the role his stepfather played in his life, making special mention of their time watching rugby together.

"He'd always say to me, if your jersey's not ripped there's no way you've been playing hard enough," he said, while holding up Bill's ripped rugby jersey.

"Bill got to put on his beloved Pelorus jersey one last time on Thursday before he went to work, and fulltime came and look at the state of it. You've played hard enough," he said.

A forestry safety review has been launched since Bill Bryant's death, looking at the high number of serious and fatal injuries in the industry.

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The review, conducted by an independent panel and expected to take six months, is being funded by forest owners, forest industry contractors and farm forestry associations.

WorkSafe New Zealand will provide administrative support and other resources.

Forest Owners past-president Bill McCallum said the forest industry made an important contribution to New Zealand, providing jobs, export earnings and helping to lift economic growth. However, the current rate of serious injury or death was not acceptable.

"We are committed to creating an industry where all our people go home safely at the end of each day, and we are hopeful the panel will shine a light on practical solutions to help us achieve this."

The panel's job was to uncover the underlying factors resulting in workers being harmed, and recommend practical measures to significantly improve the situation, Mr McCallum said.

- The Marlborough Express

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