Tom Sewell family in safety call after New Zealand death
- 16 May 2013
- From the section Surrey
The mother of a gap year teenager killed in a quad bike accident is among a group campaigning for tighter health and safety regulations in New Zealand.
Tom Sewell, 19, died in 2008 while riding a quad bike at work which did not have a roll bar safety device.
"We were thrown into complete shock," said his mother Linda, from West Byfleet in Surrey.
New Zealand's ministry of business said it had found Mr Sewell rode the bike without his employer's permission.
General manager Ona de Rooy said his death was deeply regrettable.
But she said Mr Sewell chose to ride the bike before he had received a health and safety induction and while the landowner was absent from the property.
Mrs Sewell said her son went to New Zealand because we wanted to see the All Blacks rugby team play.
"He died two days before the rugby match he should have gone to," said Mrs Sewell.
"We could not understand that our very fit, very vibrant, very intelligent son had gone to a place that we thought was safe - a respected commonwealth country - and that he could die in a kiwi orchard.
"We never dreamt that he would finish his travels like that."
An inquest held in Woking in January this year ruled Tom's death was an accident but Mrs Sewell said Surrey coroner Richard Travers wrote to the chief coroner in New Zealand making 10 health and safety recommendations.
Mrs Sewell said she and her husband, Ken, were in contact with others whose children had died in New Zealand.
Sarah Bond, from Essex, died in a quad bike accident in 2008. Emily Jordan, from Worcestershire, died when her river board became wedged under a rock the same year.
Brad Coker, from Hampshire, died when an overloaded skydiving plane crashed in 2010.
"The thing all these tragedies have in common is that all were preventable if adequate health and safety measures had been in place," said Mrs Sewell.
"The New Zealand system means that no one has to have public liability insurance. In New Zealand law you cannot sue. Theirs is a no blame culture with compensation being paid out of a government-run scheme."
"I would like to see the law changed.
"I would like there to be a charge of corporate manslaughter and the department of labour tighten up their practice so they are far more active in what they do in terms of prevention.
"But they have also got to be much stronger in taking punitive action after these sorts of accidents to stop them happening again."
Mr and Mrs Sewell gave evidence to an independent taskforce on workplace health and safety set up in New Zealand, which reported to the government in April.
The taskforce found the New Zealand system was "not fit for purpose" and made a number of recommendations designed to cut workplace deaths.
Woking MP Jonathan Lord has written to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key supporting the Sewell family's call for change but has so far not received a reply.
"We are asking that they should have a much better health and safety regime and that you should be able to prosecute people who run any businesses where there isn't a proper health or safety regime in place," he said.
"Specifically with regard to quad bikes, people should have to wear helmets and there should be roll bars."
Ms de Rooy said: "The campaign being run by UK families is incorrectly associating workplace incidents with adventure activity incidents.
"That Mr Sewell was a visitor to New Zealand and on a quad bike does not mean his death was tourism or adventure activity related.
"Quad bikes are an effective workplace tool in the agricultural and horticultural sectors when used properly and improving quad bike safety is a priority for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
"The New Zealand Government is responding to Woking MP Jonathan Lord's letter on behalf of the Sewell family."