If you ask 6-year-old Tabitha Barwell why she's in a wheelchair with both of her legs in plaster, she tells it like it is.

"Mum ran me over by accident," she says.

Both her legs were broken when a farm truck towing a trailer, driven by her mum Fiona McRae, slid out of control on a Maronan farm nearly two weeks ago, squashing the youngster between it and a gate post.

Tabitha and her mum know the September 23 incident was an accident - and that's what an investigation by the Labour Group of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has found - but it's still something they will remember forever.


Tabitha and her 4-year-old sister Storm were with their mum shortly after midday, helping to feed calves on the dairy farm where they live.

Tabitha got out of the vehicle to shut the gate after them to stop the calves getting out of the paddock. But as her mum started driving towards the gateway, the truck and the heavy trailer - carrying 600 litres of milk - started sliding in the soft ground.

Fiona yelled to her daughter to get out of the way and Tabitha took what appeared to be the shortest path out of trouble.

Tabitha found herself between the truck and a fence post. She was "squeezed".

Fortunately, her mum had the presence of mind to put her arm out the driver's window and grab her daughter. "They reckon if I hadn't she would have gone under the wheels," Fiona said.

Tabitha was taken to Christchurch Hospital in the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and underwent surgery on her legs - both of which were broken.

She had multiple fractures and required pins to be inserted. Fiona replays it in her head every night and tears spring to her eyes.

- Ashburton Guardian