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Special Investigators - TV Series

Special Investigators - Episode 1 - MOTUEKA TRACTOR FATALITY

"The fact is that the seatbelt was available. It wasn't used, and we'll never know of course, but it could have meant the difference between life and death or serious injury."
Department of Labour inspector Ron Burt

A Nelson man who was fatally crushed when his tractor tipped over a bank had worked with tractors for most of his life. One simple act could have saved his life - fastening his seatbelt.

Hudson Boyes was employed to maintain a Nelson vineyard and gardens. One day in January 2005, Hudson hired a 2004 Kubota tractor - in near-new condition, fitted with a safety frame, front-end loader and a seat belt. There were clear signs advising the tractor operator to wear the seatbelt, and this information was repeated in the operator instructions of the hire agreement. To put it simply, the equipment was safe for its intended use.

Image 1: Kubota Tractor Safety Notices

Safety notices for the Kubota tractor.  Click for a larger version.

There was no reason why it shouldn't be a straightforward job - Hudson had carried out this kind of work before and was familiar with the property.

The Department of Labour's investigation into the accident identified that Hudson lost control of the tractor while mowing the side of a bank covered in heavy grass. The tractor went over the edge of the bank and rolled, dropping the driver from the seat and landing on him.

Long grass and blackberry growth along the edge of the bank meant Hudson couldn't easily identify the edge of the bank. A tree planted near the edge of the bank reduced his driving space.

An action as simple as walking along the bank or fencing along the edge of the creek could have helped define the edge of the bank.

Tragically, it was the simplest action which could have played the most important role in saving Hudson's life - fastening the seatbelt.

Inspector Ron Burt sums it up: "He's done all the right things apart from putting the seatbelt on."