Safety gear blamed in teen's death

By Amy McGillivray

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The safety of speedway events has come under scrutiny after the death 15-year-old Samantha Body-Mouat during a race.
The safety of speedway events has come under scrutiny after the death 15-year-old Samantha Body-Mouat during a race.

The safety gear worn by a Tauranga teen speedway driver is likely to have contributed to her death, a coroner has found.

Samantha Body-Mouat was racing her mini stock car as part of the Easter Stampede at Kaikohe Speedway on April 3, 2010, when she crashed into a concrete wall on the final corner of the race.

Her injuries were so severe she died at the scene within minutes of the crash.

In his findings released yesterday, coroner Brandt Shortland said the 15-year-old was wearing an adult helmet and neck brace, both of which were required to compete in the race, but he believed they contributed to the seriousness of her injuries.

"Whilst there is no evidence to substantiate my view, it is most likely Samantha experienced severe whiplash and the weight of the adult helmet in the whiplash action most likely contributed to her demise," he said.

Mr Shortland made 11 recommendations, which included the suggestion of a review of mandatory support devices for youth, including an appropriate youth helmet and neck brace.

He also recommended the design specifications of future tracks take into account safety requirements, such as ensuring the outside wall follows the shape of the racing surface.

"The track was not fully circular, evident at where Samantha's car crashed.

"Had the crash area been of a curvature construction and deflected the car, the outcome may have been potentially different."

Another recommendation was for mandatory standards for medical coverage, equipment and personnel on race days.

The inquest heard there was confusion, panic, shock and no clear leadership at the time of the crash, as St John were not able to attend due to a mix-up with the booking.

"This serves to highlight the very need for clear leadership and a systemic approach to providing medical support with fully qualified professionals," Mr Shortland said. "I invite both the Circle Track Racing Association and Speedway New Zealand to consider an agreed approach to medical leadership in the event of a crash."

Bay of Plenty Speedway Association president and director of Flamecrusher, a company which specialises in driver safety equipment, Bernie Gillon said he fully supported the coroner's recommendations.

He believed Samantha's helmet was satisfactory but said the neck brace requirements were not stringent enough.

Mr Gillon also agreed with the coroner's suggestion that there should be design requirements to ensure the wall around new tracks followed the shape of the racing surface.

Speedway New Zealand already had strict conditions around the medical personnel and equipment that was required at a race and Mr Gillon supported the suggestion the organisation work with the Circle Track Racing Association to establish mandatory minimum standards.

"At the end of the day, the only good that can come out of the sad loss of Samantha is that the powers that be take on the coroner's findings and make the changes to prevent it happening to another family," he said.

Other recommendations made by the coroner included consideration being given to seatbelts and other safety features in mini stock cars and a media policy to ensure such events are treated with sensitivity.

Samantha Body-Mouat's mother, Lisa Strydom, did not wish to comment.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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