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Kevin - ATV incident

This over the shoulder action shot shows an ATV driver at full pelt. The driver wears the correct helmet with the chinstrap done up.

Kevin Richards has farming in his blood; he has never wanted to do anything else. But in 1989 Kevin’s ATV rolled over, paralysing him from the waist down. The doctors told him he would never walk again, let alone farm.

The day it happened Kevin was doing a lambing beat on his ATV. He was looking for a lost lamb and shot up a fairly steep slope. Kevin was concentrating on finding the lamb when he hit a sheep rut on the hillside. He somersaulted and landed heavily on his tailbone. He knew immediately that something serious was wrong.

Kevin spent months in the Otara spinal unit rehabilitating. He was determined to walk on callipers and crutches, which meant he could get out of his wheelchair. After months of hard work he was finally able to stand and is one of only a handful of paraplegics in New Zealand who can get on their feet.

Kevin didn’t stop there though. His brother Craig modified a tractor with a special hoist so Kevin could get on and off, allowing him to do farm jobs such as feeding out. Kevin also taught himself things like moving an electric fence while sitting on a farm bike, so with the help of his dog he can move stock. He has also recently started leasing the 50 acre farm next door on which 165 cows are farmed with help of his farm manager.

Kevin says he owes a lot of his success to the love and support of his family and friends, especially his wife Shona and their three children.

Kevin has never blamed anyone else for what happened to him, but he does wonder if things would have turned out differently if he had been made more aware of the limitations of an ATV.

Like so many others born onto farms, he was brought up with farm vehicles. They were nothing special, just a tool to get the jobs done. There was no great respect for them because there were so many other jobs to focus on.

Kevin believes the tide is now turning on safety. He certainly considers there to be a greater knowledge about safety, and communities are willing to learn from each other and share their experiences. And that’s exactly what Kevin is doing, sharing his experiences through motivational talks, encouraging people to stop and think about what they’re doing, and to take extra care when they know there is risk.