Forestry inquest: Dead man's son crushed two years earlier

By Kyra Dawson -
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Coroner Wallace Bain.  Photo/File
Coroner Wallace Bain. Photo/File

A forestry worker - whose death is the subject of inquest in Rotorua today - also had his son seriously injured in the same industry two years previously.

An inquest is under way into the death of forestry worker David Wayne McMurtrie, with questions being raised about the investigation.

The Opotiki man died while working near the town in 2012.

At today's inquest in Rotorua in front of coroner Wallace Bain, lawyers Peter Cranney (for CTU) and Simon Miekle (for the family) have questioned WorkSafe witness Roger Merriman, who was the investigator in charge of David McMurtrie's case.

Mr Cranney brought up two other cases which happened in the same area in similar circumstances.

The first occurred in 2010 and involved the dead man's son. Luke McMurtrie's vertebrae was crushed after a tree branch fell on him while he was working.

The other was a near miss in similar circumstances, a month before the death of David McMurtrie.

Mr Cranney questioned why these incidents weren't more thoroughly looked into and why nothing had been done to prevent them happening again.

Mr Cranney pointed out that the employer was required to provide an observer, according to WorkSafe, when there was high stacking. He then asked repeatedly why David McMurtrie did not have an observer.

Mr Merriman replied David McMurtrie was an experienced worker who would have asked for an observer if he thought he needed one.

"His son suffered crushed vertebrae, there was a near miss a month before and then he is killed." Mr Cranney said. "And you say it's his fault because he didn't organise an observer, which is the job of the employer?"

Mr Merriman replied: "Should he have required it, he would have asked."

The inquest continues this afternoon.

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