Widow: Quarry job was perilous

The death of a truck driver in a 180-metre plunge at a Golden Bay quarry last year was an accident and not due to lack of workplace training, a coroner has found.

Bryan James Wilson, known as "B J", died on February 9 last year after an all-terrain Volvo dump truck he was driving plunged down a steep face at a quarry on Mt Burnett, northwest of Collingwood.

The crash happened in an opencast dolomite quarry operated by Solly's Contractors, when Mr Wilson was heading down a hill to a processing plant with a load of dolomite rocks.

The 45-year-old lost control of the truck while negotiating a left-hand turn, and it went over the edge. Mr Wilson was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the cab during the descent. He died at the scene.

The police and Labour Department found Solly's was not at fault and no charges were laid. An autopsy found no alcohol or drug evidence in Mr Wilson's blood, and the truck had no mechanical defects.

Mr Wilson's widow, Deborah Wilson, was at the inquest in Nelson last month and said the training her husband had received was inadequate. She said she was not happy with him being up Mt Burnett, as "I knew something was going to happen".

However, Coroner Carla na Nagara said in her findings that while "it is difficult to understand why this work is not controlled or regulated in terms of formal training", she was "not persuaded that a lack of training contributed to the accident".

"The Department of Labour investigated the issue of adequacy of training in some depth. Significantly, in New Zealand, there are no formal industry training protocols or standards. However, the department was satisfied, having obtained opinions from various people within the industry, that the training Mr Wilson was given was consistent with industry practice and was adequate."

Ms na Nagara said the accident was most likely due to Mr Wilson being distracted or unbalanced in the cab. This could have been due to not wearing a seatbelt, and he was therefore unable to brake effectively to avoid the complete loss of control of the vehicle.

"Mr Wilson's failure to wear a seatbelt may well have contributed to the loss of control of the vehicle, as well as to the loss of his life. I find it difficult to understand why Mr Wilson simply did not apply his brakes well short of the point at which the truck left the road, but his failure to do so can be explained by the possibility that he was dislodged from his seat," she said.

Mrs Wilson said Ms na Nagara's findings did not surprise her, "but I definitely don't agree with them".

"Unless you have been up there [Mt Burnett], you don't realise how dangerous it really is. When I went up there, it just blew me away." She said truck driver training was inadequate and "definitely has to change".

"You sit in a classroom and do theory. More training needs to be done. There should be a set amount of practical hours needed. I just think if you're doing a job like B J's, you need more practical experience," she said.

Mrs Wilson said she had given her husband an ultimatum to leave his "dangerous" job. He had resigned, and had been planning to join her and their 9-year-old son in Motueka days later.

The Nelson Mail