Boy's death leads to $60,000 payout

Last updated 16:02 05/12/2012
Glenn Te Miha-Barlow

KILLED: Glenn Te Miha-Barlow, 5, died when a log from this pile rolled on to him at Motueka High School.

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Motueka High School's board of trustees has been ordered to pay $60,000 in reparations after the death of a boy crushed by a log in the school's grounds.

Glenn Te Miha-Barlow, 5, died on February 9 when a 519-kilogram log rolled on top of him from a stack of logs piled in the school's grounds.

The school's board of trustees were charged under the Health and Safety Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure that the actions of any employee at work harmed another person.

Board members were in court for today's sentencing.

Glenn's father Todd Barlow and grandmother Rae Stamp were also in court. Both had prepared victim impact statements.

Stamp said it had been an extremely sad and difficult time for the family. She had been grieving doubly because she had lost her "beautiful, dear grandson", and found it hard to witness the deep anguish her son was going through.

Barlow's statement, read by Stamp, made it clear he had no malice towards the school and staff had been very kind to him and his family.

It spoke of the excruciating and unbearable pain from losing his sweet, endearing, affectionate, curious and bright son.

"The passing of my dear Glenn has left a huge hole in my heart that can never be filled.

"I had been blessed with four beautiful children and now one is lost. This is an unimaginable loss no parent expects to face. Nothing will ever be the same. Part of us has gone with him."

The summary of facts said the school identified it had to cut down five poplar trees on its grounds as they were rotten and unsafe.

The school's groundsman and executive officer agreed the logs could be sold to recoup some of the cost of felling the trees.

A contractor fell the trees and the next day the groundsman cleaned up the site and stacked the logs into two stacks with his forklift.

Large and small logs were in the stacks.

At 5.45pm that day a group of children, including Glenn and two of his sisters, started playing on the logs.

A girl jumped onto a log that rolled down the stack striking and crushing Glenn, who was at the bottom of the stack.

A lawyer for the Ministry of Building Innovation and Employment, Andrew Gane, said the school should have taken steps to ensure the log stack did not harm Glenn or anyone else.

Among the steps the school should have taken was to ensure the groundsman was trained to stack the logs and engaging a contractor to manage the entire operation.

Board chairman Ian Palmer said the board felt "a great sense of sadness" about appearing in court.

Addressing Glenn's family he said the board accepted that its health and safety systems, which it thought were robust, were inadequate.

He gave the family his assurance the school would never forget Glenn and the matter was not closed. It was undertaking a case study and would work with other schools to ensure similar tragedies did not occur.

Judge Tony Zohrab said the victim impact statements were moving and the whole family "must be suffering greatly".

Judge Zohrab said everyone working to fell the trees had the best interests of the school in mind, but sometimes best intentions were not good enough.

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The culpability of the school was "towards the higher end of medium", he said.

- Nelson

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