29 Jan 2014

Second coroner wants safety upgrades

8:39 pm on 29 January 2014

A second coroner is criticising safety standards at motorsport tracks, a day after a colleague urged that improvements be made.

Samantha Body-Mouat died at the Kaikohe Speedway in Northland after her mini stock car crashed into a concrete wall in April 2010. There was no ambulance at the track at the time.

Coroner Brandt Shortland says throughout the inquest into the 15-year-old's death, there was criticism and questions raised about the shape of the track and the wall she crashed into.

In his recommendations he calls for design specifications for any future track safety requirements, for example, the outside wall or fence follows the shape of the racing surface.

The person who oversaw the track that day acknowledged that it was an odd shape. Since the accident, Kaikohe Speedway has spent $30,000 on the track, but further work is needed.

The coroner says better transparency in safety systems and a clear leader need to be established following a serious crash or death. He says minimal standards of medical care need to be mandatory at every speedway meet.

Mr Shortland recommended that the two governing bodies, Speedway New Zealand and the Circle Track Racing Association, agree on joint safety rules.

On Tuesday at an inquest into the death of a 19-year-old racer at the Timaru International Motor Raceway, coroner Richard McElrea recommended that installing inflatable air fences which absorb more impact be considered to replace tyre safety barriers.

Cameron Jones died from head injuries after crashing in January 2010. He had been travelling about 230km/h to 250km/h on a warm-up lap when he lost control of his bike and hit a tyre barrier about 70km/h. He died in Christchurch Hospital 26 days later.

His father, Peter Jones, says safety upgrades are needed at tracks around the country. He says air fences have proved effective overseas and a softer barrier at the track may have saved his son.

Governing body in contact with rival

Speedway New Zealand says its rival association has refused to meet in the past to develop a single set of safety rules.

Speedway New Zealand president David Jones told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Wednesday his organisation has approached the Circle Track Racing Association several times over the past few years but has never had its invitation accepted.

Mr Jones said following the release of Brandt Shortland's report, Speedway has been in touch with the association again and is waiting for a response.

Meanwhile, Motorcycling New Zealand president Jim Tuckerman says the sport does not have the money for expensive air barriers at present.