Boy, 6, killed in farm incident

NEIL RATLEY AND LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 12:58 07/01/2014
Charlie Vercoe
SUPPLIED
TRAGEDY: Charlie Vercoe was killed in a quad bike accident.

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LATEST: Police have released the name of the 6-year-old Invercargill boy who died after the quad bike he was riding crashed on a farm at Lorneville near Invercargill about 5.30pm yesterday.

Detective Sergeant Grant Johnstone, of Invercargill said Charlie John Vercoe and his 12-year-old brother were out together riding quad bikes when the crash occurred. 

Southland police were continuing their investigation into the death.

Initial indications were that Charlie lost control of the quad bike he was driving, which rolled before landing in a ditch of water, police said.

He was taken to Southland Hospital where he later died.

His parents are being supported by family and Victim Support.

Charlie was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

Police said that the incident was a tragic reminder of the need for a high level of safety in relation to farm vehicles.

The boys were visitors to the farm where the incident occurred.

The investigation was at an early stage. 

Wallacetown Volunteer firefighter and officer in charge Brendan Hamilton said the boy, who was visiting the property, was pinned under the quad and submerged in a creek.

The boy had been freed by the time firefighters arrived but appeared to be have been trapped under the bike for several minutes, Mr Hamilton said.

The boy was wearing a helmet but was on the bike by himself, he said.

Federated Farmers' Southland provincial president Russell MacPherson said the boy's death was a tragedy and the federation wanted to express its condolences to the family.

However, the death was a warning that quad bikes were dangerous and had to be treated with respect, Mr MacPherson said.

''They are a farm tool, not a farm toy.''

Quad bikes did look like fun and could be fun but were terribly dangerous machines, especially in the hands of young people, he said.

''This is a reminder to parents and grandparents, our children and grandchildren should not be on adult quad bikes, it's that simple.'' 

Full-sized four-wheelers carried labels from the manufacturer specifying no one under 16 years of age should ride one.

The adult size four-wheelers were heavy, powerful machines and needed an adult to control them, Mr MacPherson said.

''You need weight to manoeuvre and control an adult four-wheeler and kids don't have that.''

No passengers should be carried on a four-wheeler either: passengers restrict the rider's mobility and add weight, making it harder to control and more prone to tipping over, he said.

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''This is a terrible tragedy for the family involved, for Southland and farming communities and if anything can come out of it, it will be a reminder that four-wheelers are dangerous and potentially can kill,'' Mr MacPherson said.

Emergency services were called to an Underwood residence on the Lorneville-Wallacetown highway about 6pm yesterday. 

Charlie was rushed to hospital, but the ambulance carrying him had to stop en route to Invercargill to continue working on him before continuing on to Southland Hospital.

A WorkSafe New Zealand spokesman said the agency had been notified and had begun preliminary inquiries and that would determine if it became involved. 

The agency would only become a part of the investigation if it was a work-related incident.

The Wallacetown volunteer brigade was one of the first emergency service to attend the scene to assist with first aid, followed by the Kingswell fire brigade.

Kingswell station officer Colin Russell said his brigade responded to a "rescue call" to assist ambulance but several of his firefighters were required to drive St John vehicles, including the ambulance the child was travelling in, back to town so the staff could work on the child en route to hospital.

Mr Russell said the incident happened "quite a wee way into a farm" and was handed over to police for investigation.

Fire Service shift commander Andrew Norris said it was uncommon for firefighters to drive ambulances but, in situations where the patient was in a serious condition, it was another way of the crews helping.

Firefighters having to drive ambulances would happen only about once a month, he said.

Mr Lloyd said the number of quad bike incidents happening throughout New Zealand was an "area for concern".

Wallacetown chief fire officer Bill McLachlan said while farm incidents were a rare event for the crew to attend, it highlighted the need for volunteers in their local community.

"We try to look after our community, things go wrong but we can't do anything about that but that's why we are here. It's situations like these that show the need for volunteer spirit."

- The Southland Times

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