School in mourning after loss of pupil

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2014

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Francis Douglas Memorial College is grieving for the loss of a student who died in a motorcycle accident on Thursday.

Oakura teenager Riley Looker, 17, was killed after plunging 10 metres down a bank at an organised event at Tarata, near Inglewood, on Waitangi Day.

His body was found near his motorbike down a steep bank by a friend and the landowner, Senior Sergeant Thomas McIntyre said.

Riley was among the 200 riders at the event and an alarm was raised by his friend after he failed to turn up.

Principal Martin Chamberlain said Riley would be genuinely missed by everyone at the college.

He said fellow students and staff at the school were deeply saddened by the loss.

"We extend our sympathy to his family and friends, and as a school community we will be here to support the family and students as they return to school on Monday," Mr Chamberlain said.

Energy Honda owner Craig Morris said Riley's death was a "freak accident". "He was a customer of ours and was a really keen rider," he said.

"Riley also had all the safety equipment."

Mr Morris said trail riding was a safe sport but riders had to ride to the conditions and look after one another.

Tributes also flowed in for the teenager on Facebook.

Friend Jason Bowe, of New Plymouth, wrote "RIP Riley Looker, gone way too soon, I will never forget the way you used to pass a rugby ball and the usual "oh sweeet as," in the lunchtime banter.

"You always made me laugh, especially how you were so angry about your poor form in Whangamata ha ha. Still hasn't sunk in. You'll be missed by all, rest easy bro."

Patricia Rae Coxhead, of Oakura, said it was a "very tragic and sad" time for the family.

"Thinking of you all with love and sympathy," she wrote.

"He held a place in my home and heart as a cute curly haired, blue eyed little pre-schooler."

Dylan Burrows, also of Oakura, said "RIP Riley bro", while Luke Burn wrote "Cannot believe it was Riley".

Andy McGechan, of Bike sportNZ, said the accident was a huge tragedy. "The rides are always well managed and the riders all are checked for their helmets and boots."

However, the terrain could be dangerous and accidents could happen, though they were not frequent, Mr McGechan said.

"Riders have to be aware of the environment and take care of themselves."

Riley's death has been referred to the coroner.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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