Girl's tragic death shocks township

Last updated 10:42 30/04/2012

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The close-knit township of Tapawera is in shock following the death of a 5-year-old girl in a motorbike accident on her family's property.

Sarah Melissa Joanne MacDonald, of Tapawera, who is believed to have recently started school, died yesterday afternoon after the small two-wheeled motorbike she was riding hit a farm fence on a paddock on her home in the township.

Nelson police, volunteer fire and ambulance crews from Tapawera responded to the accident along with the Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopter about 2.30pm.

The girl, who was wearing a helmet, suffered serious injuries and died at the scene.

Victim Support was helping the family and people who witnessed the tragedy.

A family spokesperson at the property this morning said the immediate family were in Nelson with Sarah's body and family members were flying in from around the country.

The woman did not want to comment further.

Tapawera Area School principal Kelvin Woodley said this morning the family were well-known in the Tapawera community and the school was supporting the family as best as it could.

"Our thoughts are with the family. There's no suggestion of neglect or lack of supervision, the family was there when it happened. It was a supervised activity that just went wrong," Mr Woodley said.

Ministry of Education trauma counsellors would visit the school today, he said.

Sergeant Blair Hall, of Nelson, said Sarah had been riding the motorbike in the paddock all afternoon with family members on their rural property.

Police had spoken to witnesses and were investigating the accident on behalf of the coroner.

Mr Hall said she was riding a standard Yamaha mini trail bike that would not be uncommon on rural properties.

"Something has gone horribly wrong and she's run into a farm fence."

Mr Hall said Tapawera was a close-knit community and news of the accident had spread through it fairly quickly yesterday.

He said Sarah had just started school, and the school had been notified of the tragedy. She had older siblings, he said.

Small motorbikes for young children are sold in Nelson and throughout New Zealand.

People in the industry were reluctant to talk publicly this morning as they did not know all the facts of the tragedy.

However, Nelson Motorcycle Club president Simon Routledge said it was not unusual for 5-year-olds to ride two-wheeled motorbikes.

Internet searches also show YouTube clips of 5-year-olds riding dirt bikes.

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