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Attraction to stay closed until improvements

PRESS RELEASE 29 November 2004

Tourist attraction to stay closed until improvements complete

The death of an 18-year old at a Rotorua adventure tourism park in September was a tragic accident, a Department of Labour investigation has found.

James Skipper, of Helensville, was killed while riding an Offroad Freestyla three-wheel cart at Mountain Action adventure tourism park. He was about halfway down his first downhill run in the cart, when he failed to take a corner and lost control of the cart. The cart became airborne before hitting a partially buried tyre on the edge of the track, and he was thrown from the cart. He died at the scene from internal chest haemorrhaging.

The department’s occupational safety and health service investigated the accident, and Taupo-Eastern Bay of Plenty service manager Murray Thompson said the fatal injury was the result of Mr Skipper hitting the embedded tyre at around 35kmh. The force of the cart hitting the embedded tyre meant Mr Skipper was thrown chest-first into the cart’s steering column.

“There is an element of risk involved in a luge cart travelling down a hillside with the driver in control of the cart. Sadly on this occasion, a number of events conspired at the one time to cause this tragic accident.”

OSH investigated whether the design of the track or the luge carts contributed to the accident, and while there were some cart maintenance and track design issues, these did not cause the accident, Mr Thompson said.

“Mountain Action did not act recklessly or negligently and took all reasonable steps to comply with their duties under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

“With the benefit of hindsight, the most significant contributing factor was the embedded tyre on the edge of the track. This is not an acceptable safety feature and is to be removed by Mountain Action.”

Mr Thompson said the company was required to stop operating after the accident, and the luge would not reopen until OSH’s recommendations that the track design be improved and the carts enhanced are complied with. OSH will continue to monitor the operation in the future.

He said this tragic accident served as a reminder for all adventure tourist operators. “While there is risk in any such activity, client safety is a critical part of design and ongoing management.

“It’s crucial that all practicable steps are taken to ensure no one gets harmed. This could include advice and information from a chartered professional engineer, or other recognised expert or field specialist. In addition to maintaining high standards of safety equipment, vigilant maintenance checks and safe operating procedures are a must.”

ENDS

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