Sam Boyer

Sam Boyer is a police reporter for the NZ Herald.

A father's relief: Girl who crashed bike stirs from coma

Dad 'really chuffed' his girl, 10, is finally stirring after serious cycle crash

John Robertson was working in Christchurch when he got word that his only child Samantha had been badly hurt cycling in Pukekawa. Photo / Brett Phibbs
John Robertson was working in Christchurch when he got word that his only child Samantha had been badly hurt cycling in Pukekawa. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A 10-year-old who crashed her bike into a car has shown the first signs of recovery after a week in a coma.

Samantha Robertson's family have kept a bedside vigil at the Starship hospital in Auckland for seven long days.

And yesterday, they were rewarded - she spoke for the first time.

Her father, John Robertson, said the relief of seeing his only child stirring was almost overwhelming. "She's doing well. She's slowly coming back to us. We're really chuffed. It's indescribable, really."

The start of the road to recovery comes as cycling advocates renew pressure on Mayor Len Brown to prioritise bikeway projects for Auckland, claiming there is too much talk and not enough action.

Samantha was not wearing a helmet when she accidentally overshot the end of a friend's driveway on Thursday last week and rode straight into the path of a car on a 100km/h road in Pukekawa, 66km south of the Auckland CBD.

Doctors started reducing her anaesthetic on Wednesday night after seeing positive results in an MRI scan that day.

Yesterday, she started to wake up and communicate with people - much to the relief of her father, who has described the days since the accident as a parent's worst nightmare.

Samantha mostly rested yesterday, he said, but had shown signs of her old self.

"When the nurse was combing her hair, she told her to leave her alone, which is a real positive.

"I feel real proud of that. That's my girl, she's like that, she's independent. That's her all over, coming out again."

Samantha suffered severe head injuries and significant wounds to her legs, right shoulder and elbow.

Mr Robertson, a 63-year-old Christchurch builder, received the news from his ex-partner, Samantha's mother, Sherry Coulson, in a phone call that night and flew to Auckland the next morning.

He described the following days as "hell", saying he was unable to do anything but watch on as Samantha lay unconscious and hooked up to a breathing machine in the Starship.

It was a parent's worst nightmare, he said. "It's hell. She's my only kid. And I'm an older dad, and that doesn't make it any easier.

"Life's a risk, but you don't think it's going to happen to your own."

It wasn't yet clear whether Samantha had suffered any lasting brain damage.

A police spokeswoman said it was too early to determine whether charges would be laid in relation to the collision.

Mr Robertson said he didn't know the full details of the crash, but there was "absolutely" no animosity towards the driver.

"She (Samantha) didn't deserve to be hit like this. [But] we obviously feel for the guy, the driver who was involved, as well."

He did, however, want the authorities to look at rural speed limits.

"They're little narrow roads and they've got the same speeds as motorways. It doesn't make sense."

Samantha's accident came as the Herald was highlighting the issues between cyclists and motorists, following the deaths of two cyclists this year. Since then, cyclists have challenged Mayor Brown to get behind efforts to make bikeway projects a priority.

"We want action, not talkfests," Cycle Action Auckland chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert said of a mayoral proposal to bring together representatives of cyclists and walkers before the end of this month to decide on a batting order for providing more bikeways and shared paths.

A mayoral spokesman said a full active transport action plan would be developed during the 2015 long-term plan process, in conjunction with walkers and cyclists.


Helmet law a 'health disaster'

More cyclists are being injured, despite a big decline in the number of people riding bikes and the compulsory wearing of helmets.

Perth-based researcher Chris Gillham has used Otago University and Ministry of Transport data to argue the helmet law has led to a serious decline in non-motorised transport without delivering promised safety benefits. He calls it the "worst public health disaster".

He has produced a graph showing a drop in New Zealand cyclists aged 5 and over from about 260,000 in 1993 to fewer than 150,000 in 2011.

The graph also uses data from Otago University's injury prevention research unit, showing an increase in injuries from about 500 for every 100,000 cyclists in 1994 to about 960 in 2009, easing to 870 by 2011.

Cycling advocate Patrick Morgan, who wants the helmet law reviewed by a Transport Agency panel of experts, said helmets "offer protection against a slow-speed fall, but it's not a magic object that will definitely save your life".

But Otago University lecturer in environment health Alex MacMillan says Mr Gillham's graph gives no information on other potential causes of falling cycling numbers, such as cheaper cars and petrol.

- NZ Herald

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