Rider inexperience contributes to death

Last updated 15:28 03/12/2013

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A 16-year-old South Otago boy's motorbike inexperience was a major contributor to his death, a coroner has said.

Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar today released his formal written findings into the death of Rowan Cai Parker, a student, of Owaka.

Rowan died after losing control of a quad bike and fell about 150m off a cliff at Marks Bay, at the Chaslands, on Boxing Day last year

Evidence, from witness statements, say Rowan and his friend Reuben McLay were visiting a farm where their friend Jessica Cairns lived.

They had spent the afternoon doing general farm work, which included riding motorbikes to shift sheep.

Rowan had never operated a motorbike before but was given lessons by his two friends in a safe area of the farm.

He was instructed to always wear a safety helmet and to always ride on the farm track when near cliffs, Mr Crerar says.

Later in the day the three friends decided to ride to an area at the far end of the farm to gather paua with Rowan and Reuben on two-wheel motorbikes and Jessica on a four-wheel motorbike, he says.

But Rowan found it difficult to ride the two-wheel bike and struck a bank causing he and Jessica to switch bikes, he says.

While riding Jessica's hat blew off and Reuben went off the track to retrieve it.

Rowan also rode the four-wheeler off the track and on to the grass, Mr Crerar says.

Rowan's motorbike slid and slipped and travelled towards the cliff.

Rowan tried to correct the slide by straightening the steering.

The slope rapidly changed and Rowan was unable to regain control, and he and the bike fell off the edge about 150 and 200m to the rocks below, Mr Crerar says.

''The common theme in quad-bike related deaths, echoed in the case of Rowan Parker, is rider inexperience. In retrospect it can easily be seen that Rowan Parker ought to have learned to ride a quad bike in a safer environment on flat paddocks.''

It was a recommendation of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that before using quad bikes (on farms), riders be instructed on their use and on their dangers. It also recommended riders always wear helmets.

''The death of Rowan Parker is a tragedy to his parents and his extended family and his friends ... if any good can come of the death, however, it will be to emphasise that it is necessary for any person, before they take control of a quad bike in hazardous surroundings, for them to become totally familiar with how to ride and control the quad bike.''

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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