Club makes safety changes after accident

By Mike Dinsdale

Public will be fenced out after fatal crash

Warning signs will be backed up by fences at Whangarei BMX Club's track. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Warning signs will be backed up by fences at Whangarei BMX Club's track. Photo / Michael Cunningham

A Whangarei policeman's death after a BMX track accident has led to fencing of the track to stop public access.

Whangarei District Council, which owns the land, and track owners Whangarei BMX Club, have agreed to erect a 2m fence around the track and restrict public access to strictly controlled club days.

Whangarei police Detective Sergeant Andrew Clubley, 49, died on May 7 in Whangarei Hospital after a May 4 accident at the track.

Northland Coroner Brandt Shortland has found Mr Clubley died due to a brain injury sustained after falling off a mountain bike on the track's first jump.

Mr Shortland said Mr Clubley was not wearing a helmet. However, even if he had been, it would not have prevented the fatal injury, the coroner found. Mr Clubley's death was the second at the BMX track since it opened in 2008. In 2011, a BMX accident led to 15-year-old Dion Felton's death, which the coroner found was an "absolute chance accident" and could have happened to any rider.

However, Mr Shortland believed that if a fence had been erected around the track, Mr Clubley's death may have been prevented.

Mr Shortland supported the BMX club's fencing of the park and said education about the skill set required for BMX racing and the use of appropriate equipment on the track must accompany the fence.

Whangarei BMX Club president John Romer said more signs had been erected after Mr Clubley's accident warning people to only use BMX bikes; that they must be experienced riders and that they must have the correct safety gear.

"But they have been ignored and a fence is the only way to ensure public safety," Mr Romer said. "We still see people down there taking the risk. We don't want any more of these tragedies and that's why the fence needs to go up." Mr Romer said the general public would still be allowed use on a controlled basis so the club could ensure non-club members' safety.

He said club events were strictly controlled, but that level of control could not be available 24/7 at the track for the wider public, hence the fence and public club days.

"We want to make it as safe as possible," he said.

"We don't want to fence it off, because it's such a great facility, but people are not reading the warning signs and not using the track properly and we don't want this to happen again. At the club days we have people trained in First Aid and ambulances on hand when needed."

Whangarei District Council parks and recreation manager Paul McDonald said tenders closed last week and the council was evaluating them before letting the contract to build the fence, which could take up to six weeks to construct.

- Northern Advocate

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