February 17, 2011

The seatbelt issue....

One of the issues we all faced last year was the hurtful assumption made via a letter in the paper that Arch had not been wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. Because the car appeared relatively undamaged from the distant photos someone said he obviously would have survived if he had been belted in. 
( the letters can be seen at the end of this post )

I am posting this article below because it clearly states that he was. It was tested and working, still clipped in place in the car. The vertical and horizontal tumbling and rolling of the car down the steep slope caused his seat to break and lie flat, so he was flung backwards out into the back, then out the shattered rear window. Actually the word used was "torpedoed". Apparently seats breaking this way is quite common. I can say that the damage to the car was severe, particularly on the drivers side.

Assumptions really don't pay...  at the time, the insinuation was hurtful; mainly because he was a careful driver who didn't use his phone, drive with no seatbelt etc. I do understand the point was to advise people who felt they were about to go over the edge not to undo the belt, or try to jump out. Always drive with it on - and I suppose that normally, the injuries you would get with it on are less than those if you are unbelted. 

I highlighted the main bits of this newspaper article from today....


Mt Hutt management is to install new barriers on 21 corners of the Canterbury ski field's access road following the death of a motorist last year, an inquest heard today.

Arthur Richardson, a 61-year-old electrician from Rolleston, Christchurch, died after his car plunged almost 100 metres off the access road on June 14 , Coroner Richard McElrea was told at the inquest in Ashburton.

A search party mounted after Mr Richardson failed to return home from a day skiing alone, located his body outside his crashed car.
A post mortem examination found he died of severe chest injuries after being thrown from the vehicle. He was wearing a seatbelt but the back of his seat broke.
Road and weather conditions were fine, and there were no brake marks on the road judging by tyre marks in roadside snow on the bend known as Shady Corner, which also indicated Mr Richardson's speed was between 28 and 34kmh, according to a police serious crash unit report.
Mr McElrea said while loss of concentration was a likely cause, Mr Richardson could also have misinterpreted the corner despite being a regular up the mountain.

"This road has been travelled perhaps many thousands of times by many vehicles without this outcome," he said.
"Why did a careful driver allow his vehicle to leave the road? The answer, at least part of it, lies in the delineation of the edge of the road, clearly he has misinterpreted that edge," Mr McElrea said.

It was not known what time the crash occurred. Mr Richardson was skiing alone and he completed his final run at 1.48pm. His partner reported him missing at 10pm.

Mr McElrea said death was inevitable, given Mr Richardson's injuries, no matter where the accident had occurred.
"The post mortem confirmed that death was due to the injuries received. He would have lost consciousness almost immediately and died within minutes," Mr McElrea said.

Mr Richardson's family described him as a safe driver and they dismissed the possibility he could have been using his cellphone at the time. The possibility he deliberately drove off the road was also dismissed by family, and police.

"He was a careful and experienced driver, he knew how to handle ski area access roads in all conditions," Mr McElrea said.

The Department of Labour completed a workplace assessment at Mt Hutt following the deaths of Mr Richardson, two skiers and a snowboarder, in separate incidents last year. They recommended a contractor be brought in to look at improvements which could be made to the road and Mt Hutt management had done that.

Mt Hutt ski area manager Dave Wilson told the coroner 21 new barriers would be installed at corners on the access road.

NZSki.com, which owns Mt Hutt, was waiting for confirmation the new barriers would withstand their heavy snow clearing systems before starting work.

He told the coroner the corner where Mr Richardson crashed had not been the scene of previous accidents, but it would be top priority for installing the new barriers. Four barriers would be completed this season and the remainder by 2015.

"It's a very responsible response from Mt Hutt and it's a very constructive outcome to the most unfortunate death of Arthur Richardson," Mr McElrea said.The fatality was the first on the access road since 1994, when two people died after their vehicle left the road. There have been four incidents where cars have left the road in the past 10 years.

Here are the extracts from the letters written at the time of the accident.

Buckle up and live
Press, The; Christchurch, New Zealand, Jun 18, 2010 
My deepest sympathies go out to the Richardson family, regarding the tragic and preventable death on the Mt Hutt access road (June 16). Sadly, it seems Mr Richardson was not wearing his seatbelt, as he was found some distance from his not terribly damaged vehicle. 

It is a timely reminder to every skier who is under the delusion it is permissible to unbuckle when driving on ski access roads: there are no circumstances where a seatbelt is a disadvantage in a crash. I also know there are people who undo their seatbelt when driving next to canals. Such people are, sadly, temporary citizens. So, belt up and live! 


Comment hurtful 
Press, The; Christchurch, New Zealand, Jun 21, 2010 
In response to Christopher H Davies' letter "Buckle up and live'' (June 18), we make the point that Arch Richardson was a trusted and careful friend who ran an extremely safety-conscious electrical business. 
To trivialise his death by jumping to unfounded conclusions about seatbelt use is objectionable and unnecessary. 
It is not believable to those of us who knew Arch that he would not wear his seatbelt and it is in any case unlikely that seatbelts had any influence on his untimely death. 
Comments such as Mr Davies' are hurtful to friends and family and to his memory. 

Leave it to coroner 
0 Comments | Press, The; Christchurch, New Zealand, Jun 26, 2010 
As the partner of Arch Richardson, the man who died in the tragic but preventable accident on the Mt Hutt Rd, I wish to reply to Christopher H Davies (June 18). 
I know that Arch always wore his seatbelt, as he was an extremely careful driver who stuck to the speed limit and obeyed the road rules. 
Was Mr Davies a witness to the accident? If so, I'm sure the police would like to speak with him. If not, I ask that he and others who have similar opinions keep them to themselves, rather than add insult to injury for the bereaved, and leave the conclusions to the coroner, who will give the final ruling on what happened that day. 

I can't access our family response anymore and somehow didn't take a copy at the time - 

In reply to Christopher H Davies' letter "Buckle up and live'' (June 18), we wish to clarify that police have confirmed to the family that Arthur (Arch) Richardson was wearing his fastened seatbelt at the time his vehicle left the Mt Hutt ski-field access road on June 14.
The seatbelt was discovered still fastened upon later inspection of the vehicle. Unfounded speculation put forward by Mr Davies and published by The Press that Arch was not wearing his seatbelt was unnecessary and insensitive. It is hoped both will exercise greater care when weighing comment regarding tragedies such as this in the future.

-- The Richardson family....

Yesterday, the coroner has finally spoken ... and we felt he made it quite clear to the media yesterday that this was the case so that it could be reported. Interesting that it was not mentioned in the article I posted this morning.

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