Coroner calls for stock car safety overhaul

Last updated 15:41 29/01/2014

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A coroner has called for a safety overhaul for young stockcar drivers after a 15-year-old girl died when she crashed during a race.

Tauranga teen Samantha Paige Body-Mouat was competing in the "mini stock" class at Kaikohe Car Club's annual Easter Stampede event in April 2010.

During the final race of the day her orange No 66 car was in second place on the final lap.

As she reached what was known as Cemetery Corner, her car - as many others did on that corner - rose on to two wheels.

It settled back on to four and headed almost directly into the concrete track wall, which broke on impact.

Police crash investigator, James Hawthorne, estimated Samantha was travelling at 77kmh and had "hit the wall pretty flush".

A post mortem later found she had suffered a skull base fracture with severe brainstem and spinal cord injury.

Coroner Brandt Shortland said after the smash "there was much confusion, panic and shock for those in attendance".

Because of St Johns' new centralised booking system, the race club found out the day before the event an ambulance that was supposed to be in attendance would not be present.

All competitors were warned of that on the day.

One of the first on the scene was Kaikohe Car Club official Michael Sparrow, a volunteer fireman and ambulance officer, who removed Samantha's helmet to open up her airways.

But Wendy Clark, who was a nurse at Tauranga hospital's emergency department, soon arrived and was horrified she had been moved.

Coroner Shortland concluded it was unlikely that what happened to Samantha after the crash had any impact on the tragic result.

However, in a report released today, he recommended stockcar racing governing bodies should establish safety protocols with a minimum standard of medical equipment and personnel onsite.

Safety expert Bernard Gillon provided a report to the coroner's enquiry which highlighted the need for specialist equipment for young people involved in the sport.

The coroner agreed and called for a review of those features, particularly looking at age-appropriate helmets and neck braces.

"Whilst there is no evidence to support my view, it is most likely Samantha experienced severe whiplash and the weight of the adult helmet in the whiplash action most likely contributed to her demise," he said.

During an emotional hearing in September, Samantha's family were particularly concerned about the shape of barrier around the track, which was squared off rather than following the contours of the raceway.

Hawthorne said if the concrete wall had been curved, the car may have glanced off rather and saved the driver's life.

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Coroner Shortland also adopted that view and called for all future tracks to be designed in such a way.

Kaikohe has since demolished their wall and spent $30,000 replacing it.

Samantha's mother Lisa Strydom told the enquiry she could not shake the memory of the tragic events.

"I saw everything, and I heard everything, and I relive it every night."

- Fairfax Media

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