2 Dec 2019

Fatal motorbike crash reinforces need for adult supervision, coroner says

7:25 am on 2 December 2019

A coroner says the death of an 11-year-old girl who crashed a motorbike at a friend's farm, reinforces the need for adults to supervise children using the machines.

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Starship Hospital. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

In September 2016, Jessica Robson, from Winton, was riding a 50cc motorbike around the farm where her 12-year-old friend Chloe lived.

She collided with a passing car and died two weeks later in Starship Hospital from severe traumatic brain injury.

In a report, Coroner Anna Tutton said Jessica was an inexperienced rider and the motorbike, that Chloe's brother owned, was not recommended for anyone under 13 years.

Jessica was not wearing a helmet, did not know where the foot brake was and did not have adult supervision.

Ms Tutton found sun-strike and distraction were also likely causes for Jessica driving into the path of the oncoming car, which it appears she didn't see.

"It is likely her young age limited her recognition of the dangerous situation," she said.

But she said Chloe was not to blame and it was adults who should have taken responsibility.

"At 11 and 12 years old, both children were not responsible, and were not capable of assuming responsibility, for ensuring Jessica's safety, including whether she wore a helmet while riding the motorbike," she said.

"Supervision of the use of the motorbike by Chloe and Jessica was the responsibility of the adults caring for them at that time. That responsibility was not exercised," she said.

Ms Tutton described the death of the "happy, healthy" girl as a tragedy.

But she said there was already existing, readily available guidance about children's use of motorbikes, including the WorkSafe brochure "safe use of two-wheeled motorbikes on farms".

"That advice is simple, accessible and widely known, and fundamental to children's safety. Adults are responsible for the observance of that advice, which saves lives," she said.