Motocross rider's death an accident, says coroner

By Aaron van Delden,

A coroner has cleared the company behind an annual trail bike ride near Ohakune that claimed the life of a 29-year-old Hamilton man last year of any wrongdoing.

The death was deemed "the result of an unfortunate accident".

Damian Mark Ansell, a roofer, died on January 15, 2011, after coming off his bike while taking a corner during the two-day Desert Storm motocross event at Karioi Forest.

Coroner Carla na Nagara found no evidence of shortcomings in Epic Events' management of the trail ride.

She said such events were not without risk of serious injury or death, and she was satisfied Mr Ansell was aware of this fact, too, given he signed an entry form acknowledging the sport could cause harm.

Following Desert Storm 2011, Epic Events was sold.

Its new owners did not wish to comment on the findings, and an attempt to contact the company's previous owner proved unsuccessful.

Ms na Nagara's report, released this week, indicates Mr Ansell died of neck injuries so severe they would have been instantly fatal.

But an exact cause of the crash, which was not witnessed, could not be determined.

Mr Ansell was riding the trail with two friends.

They lost sight of him 3km into the track and waited for about 10 minutes before deciding he must have become lost or taken a different route.

Meanwhile, other Desert Storm riders had found Mr Ansell lying a few metres from his bike at the side of the track. He was not moving.

A medic at the event was notified and arrived by four-wheel drive motorbike 15 minutes later.

He found Mr Ansell in full cardiac arrest and began resuscitation attempts.

But Mr Ansell could not be revived and was declared dead at the scene.

Ms na Nagara said a post-mortem examination revealed the injuries Mr Ansell had sustained were not survivable, "so the time it took the medic to reach him did not contribute to his demise".

There was also no evidence that Mr Ansell's accident was attributable to defects with his bike.

Possible crash scenarios provided by the police's Serious Crash Unit were:

  • entering the corner at excessive speed

  • being struck in the face by an insect

  • a loss of traction

  • an incorrect gear shift

Ms na Nagara concluded "that Mr Ansell died as the result of an unfortunate accident, while participating in a sport that he apparently loved".

- Wanganui Chronicle

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