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Special Investigators - Episode 4a - HOUSTON MOTORS

"And then I saw something flash in my eyes down low ... At that stage I had no idea what it was. It was like someone had thrown something out the workshop door. That’s how quick it was."

- Mechanic Andrew Satherley

Nelson mother Sue was collecting her car from a local garage after a morning in town with her sons Alex and Cody. As she went to pay the bill, three-year old Cody was fatally injured when a four-wheel drive vehicle hit him in the garage forecourt.

Department of Labour inspector Ron Burt was on the scene at Houston Motors within minutes of the February 2004 accident. Working with the Police team at the site he was able to quickly establish that a garage mechanic, Andrew Satherley, was driving the four-wheel drive vehicle slowly out of the garage when Cody ran out from the side and was run over.

Andrew only saw a flash low down due to the sight lines from the vehicle being severely restricted, creating a danger area at the front corner of the vehicle.

Ron Burt’s investigation showed that the garage layout, with the close proximity of the reception area to the workshops, was a significant factor in the fatal accident.

When Sue walked into the garage reception area she thought Cody was with her. While she was distracted paying the bill, Cody strayed into the workshop area. He suddenly darted back fast towards reception and ran right into the path of the four-wheel drive that Andrew Satherley was driving.

The Coroner found that Cody died as a result of sustaining multiple injuries from the accident. The mechanic, who had no chance to avoid the running boy, was cleared of any blame.

The Coroner endorsed a recommendation by Ron Burt that Houston Motors moved the waiting room entrance so that customers were kept totally separate from vehicle movements in the yard.

Sue sums up the speed of the accident: “It happened within a minute…the guy came running and saying ‘Call an ambulance, I’ve run over a kid’ and I saw it was my child.”