BMX club in safety review

By Peter de Graaf, Imran Ali

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The Whangarei BMX Club is independently reviewing its track.
The Whangarei BMX Club is independently reviewing its track.

The Whangarei BMX Club is considering putting additional safety measures around the bike track on Pohe Island after two accidents, including a fatality, since 2011.

The club's committee was to have met last night and president John Romer said issues such as additional signs, fencing of the BMX track and gates over ramps were expected to be discussed.

"Something needs to be done on the public use of the place because we don't want people hurting themselves but want them to have fun," Mr Romer said.

He felt more signs were needed as some riders didn't read them and said other club members would decide whether the tracks needed to be fenced as was the case in other towns.

"The club is more than happy to help people who want to use the tracks but they must know that without proper gear or bike, it's a lot more dangerous."

His comments come as a senior police officer based in Whangarei is fighting for his life after suffering serious neck and head injuries at the track on Sunday.

The accident came days before the release of a Coroner's report which ruled that a 2011 BMX accident which led to 15-year-old Dion Felton's death was an "absolute chance accident" and could have happened to any rider.

The land the track is on is owned by the Whangarei District Council and leased to the BMX club. Northland Coroner Brandt Shortland's ruling on Dion's death cleared both track and rider of blame.

Mr Shortland said Dion, a keen BMX enthusiast, knew the track and was a conscientious rider. He was wearing the required safety gear at the time.

Dion started the fateful run, his first of the day, at the top of a 5m-high ramp. The height of a two-storey building, the ramp gives riders speed to start the course. After launching from the first jump, Dion landed badly between jumps two and three, breaking the top two vertebrae in his neck.

Dion had gone ahead while his mother, Trudy Felton, locked the car. When she did not see him on the track and he did not respond to calls, she and a family friend went looking for him. They found Dion lying at an awkward angle beside his bike and not breathing. They called 111 and started CPR. He was taken first to Whangarei Hospital and then to Auckland. Given his devastating spinal cord injury and worsening condition, a decision was eventually made to turn off his ventilator. He died a week after the accident on July 2, 2011. Mr Shortland said he was satisfied the track had not contributed to the boy's death.

"On this particular day Dion did not land as expected, whereas in other runs there had not been any difficulty ... It was a pure accident and could have happened to any rider at any time."

BMX riding was intense and potentially dangerous but Mr Shortland said Dion was confident and competent. His bike was checked by an expert and found to be fit for purpose.

- Northern Advocate

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