Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Terrible error cost son his life: Dad

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Cole Joseph Walker, 20, of Te Puke, was killed when he hit his head  last year.
Cole Joseph Walker, 20, of Te Puke, was killed when he hit his head last year.

The family of a young mountain biker killed in the Whakarewarewa Forest have told an inquest their son made a terrible mistake and paid for it with his life.

Cole Joseph Walker, 20, of Te Puke, was killed when he hit his head on the ground after making a "small error of judgement" while attempting a set of jumps on a grade 5 trail, known as the Pigeon Run, on August 22 last year.

He was taken to Waikato Hospital's intensive care unit, but died of his injuries on August 26.

The inquest into his death was held in Rotorua yesterday by Coroner Gordon Matenga, who found Mr Walker's death was due to "a severe head injury following a mountain bike crash".

Mr Matenga did not make any further rulings or recommendations saying the subsequent removal and reconstruction of the trail by members of Rotorua's mountain biking community was appropriate, but he did warn the general public about the dangers of the sport which he said they undertook at their own risk.

The only witness to the accident, 23-year-old Mt Maunganui man Ricoh Flavell, told the inquest he followed Mr Walker down the trail and watched as he overshot a jump, landed on his front wheel, and went over his handlebars hitting his head on the ground.

Sergeant David Hamilton of Rotorua police, an avid mountain biker, also gave evidence.

Mr Hamilton said Pigeon Run was dismantled in February this year, and would be rebuilt, after Descend Rotorua had "adopted" the trail.

"We took it out as it could be designed better and to prevent this sort of thing happening again."

At the end of proceedings Mr Walker's father Greg Walker made a statement to the court.

His son was "a real neat guy and always had a permanent smile on his face", he said.

He said his son had been riding all of his life, starting out on a BMX and had ridden in the forest for two to three years, including on Pigeon Run.

"He knew it was an extreme sport, we had talked to him about it several times. But that's what he loved doing and we weren't going to stop him doing it - we couldn't stop him doing it.

"I guess at the end of the day he made a terrible mistake and paid for it with his life.

"But he had a good life, a short life, but a good life, and we all miss him dearly."

Mr Walker thanked all of those who helped his son on the day of the accident.

Mountain biking safety tips:

* Try to ride with others, or tell others where you are riding

* Fast, flowing tracks can be more dangerous than technical slower trails

* Learn how to jump safely

* Know your limits

* Take a reputable skills clinic

* Have an emergency plan in place

* Check your bike is safe to ride in the conditions

Source: Peak Safety and Emergency Management

- Bay of Plenty Times

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