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Special Investigators - TV Series

Special Investigators - Episode 2 - HYDRAULIC TRUCK TRAY

"We were tipping a load of dirt off and our tray stuck and I said to myself 'Don't get under there, Lindsay, it's too dangerous'. The speed that this thing came down at, the tray dropped almost instantaneously."
- Victim Lindsay Rankin

A normally cautious man, earth-moving business owner Lindsay Rankin knew the split-second before the hydraulics on his truck failed, that he'd made a crucial error of judgement.

Lindsay was on a job on Waiheke Island when the truck's tray stuck, leaving 10 tonnes of wet clay sitting in the air. He was working trying to free the tray when the truck's hydraulics failed, sending the tray - and the clay - slamming down and trapping his arms.

Despite knowing the risk of working on the truck while the tray was raised, Lindsay couldn't imagine what was about to happen that day in January 2004.

The truck's hydraulic mechanism had a diverter valve to allow the tipping mechanism to work when there was a trailer attached. Lindsay's young worker Raoul Hickman had accidentally switched over to the diverter valve in the middle of tipping the main tray, causing it to stick.

That was when Lindsay made his disastrous decision to try and free the valve there and then, without propping it first.

"My thinking was that the valve in the cab was on hold. I didn't contemplate the valve flying out of the housing at all. I made the mistake," he told Department of Labour inspector Russ Newton from his hospital bed.

Lindsay remained calm throughout, directing Raoul to lift the tray off his arms with a nearby bulldozer. He labelled his young employee a hero.

Lindsay was incredibly lucky. His arms were trapped for some minutes, but no major arteries were cut. He'll have the scars as a constant reminder of the accident, but was lucky not to lose both arms.

Lindsay knew his failure to follow safe procedure very nearly cost him his arms. It wasn't a mistake he was going to make again.

He sums it up to Russ Newton: "The safety precautions have always been in place, normally. Just this one lapse and what more reinforcement do you need…when you get caught?"