Club rejects Coroner's safety recommendations

GONE TOO SOON: Cameron Jones died after a crash at Levels Raceway in January 2012.
GONE TOO SOON: Cameron Jones died after a crash at Levels Raceway in January 2012.

Recommendations by a coroner to make Levels Raceway safer for motorbike riders following a fatal crash two years ago have been rejected as not feasible by the South Canterbury Motorcycle Club.

Christchurch rider Cameron Peter Jones, 19, left the raceway on a corner and hit a tyre wall in warmup laps at the New Zealand Superbike Championship meeting on January 15, 2012.

He was taken by ambulance to Timaru Hospital, before being transferred to Christchurch Hospital. He died as a result of a traumatic brain injury, sustained in the crash, on February 10, 2012.

Coroner Richard McElrea issued his findings yesterday, estimating Mr Jones was travelling between 230 and 250 kilometres per hour before braking and losing control, sliding over grass and crashing into a tyre barrier.

"The likely cause of the loss of control of the motorcycle was a temporary front brake failure," Mr McElrea said. He recommended an inflatable air fence be used on the corner, but the South Canterbury Motorcycle Club has responded that his recommendations are not feasible.

"If considered feasible, implement fundraising to provide an air fence for use at the corner in question, when the track is being used for motorcycle racing," Mr McElrea said. "Consider policies for maximising frictional resistance of any grass surface and dealing with any moist grass surface, such as removing moisture."

At the inquest Cameron Jones' father, Peter, raised concerns about the safety barriers at Levels.

He also said the cost of keeping his son in hospital for 26 days following the crash "would have bought all the temporary air fences ... for that circuit, forever".

The coroner also recommended Motorcycling New Zealand provide possible funding for air fences.

South Canterbury Motorcycle Club vice-president Grant Ramage was one of the first at the scene and found the superbike rider unresponsive. He removed his helmet at the request of paramedics. The bike had ended up on top of the tyre barrier.

Since the accident the gravel bed at the corner had been made three times bigger, Mr Ramage said, and large bags of empty plastic containers put in front of the tyre wall to absorb impact. An air wall would be too expensive, he said.

"The problem with an air wall is you have a trailer with a compressor on it, and we would need two for that corner, which would mean two solid impact objects. It would cost $20,000.

"He also recommended removing moisture from the grass. How do you do that, hire a helicopter to hover above it?"

Mr Jones' death was a "tragic accident", he said.

The Timaru Herald