23 Aug 2023

Anniversary of death: Seven years on, family gather in court to see private prosecution of forestry employer

4:36 pm on 23 August 2023

By Ric Stevens, Open Justice reporter of NZ Herald

The trial is being held at Napier District Court. Photo:

A bereaved father and his whānau marked the seventh anniversary of a forestry worker's death by gathering in a courtroom to bring a private prosecution against their loved one's employer.

Niko O'Neill Brooking-Hodgson, 24, was killed on 22 August 2016 when he was hit by a nine-kilogram D-shackle travelling towards him like "a missile" on a length of wire cable.

At the time, he was employed as a "breaker-out" for DG Glenn Logging Ltd in the Esk Forest, northwest of Napier.

A breaker-out connects felled trees to a cable so they can be hauled out of the immediate area for processing.

He was on sloping terrain retrieving a log-hauler line so the hauling rig could be moved when he was struck by a cable which had the D-shackle attached to it.

The Napier District Court was told on Tuesday the line and shackle had become snagged.

Richard Brooking holding a photograph of his son Niko O'Neill Brooking-Hodgson, 24, who died in a forestry accident in August 2016. NZ Herald image.

Richard Brooking holding a photograph of his son Niko O'Neill Brooking-Hodgson, 24, who died in a forestry accident in August 2016. Photo: NZ Herald

Prosecuting lawyer Fletcher Pilditch said when it broke free, the instantaneous release of tension on the line caused it to jettison toward Brooking-Hodgson in an uncontrolled way reminiscent of "a missile".

Brooking-Hodgson was struck in the head and chest.

"Tragically, Mr Brooking-Hodgson … tried to evade the cable with the shackle on the end, and may have even placed his hand up to protect his head, but was struck by the cable or the shackle or a combination of both," Pilditch said.

A trainee who was working with Brooking-Hodgson was also hit by the cable but did not suffer any lasting or serious injuries.

Brooking-Hodgson received first aid and CPR from his workmates and an ambulance and rescue helicopter were called immediately, but he was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived.

WorkSafe investigated but decided not to prosecute - a decision the dead man's father, Richard Brooking, a former forestry worker and health and safety consultant, did not accept.

In July last year, Brooking, of Te Araroa near East Cape, filed charging documents in the Napier court after a judge cleared the way for a private prosecution to proceed.

DG Glenn Logging has now been charged under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 with exposing an individual to a risk of harm.

The trial before Judge Geoff Rea is taking place this week.

Brooking, wearing a T-shirt with an image of his son, and about a dozen family and supporters were watching from the public gallery on Tuesday.

Defence counsel Chris Shannon questioned WorkSafe investigator Casey Broad about Brooking-Hodgson's induction, training and safety records.

They also reviewed safety procedures and documents related to Broad's on-site investigations following the fatal accident.

Broad agreed Brooking-Hodgson, with seven years of experience in the industry, had completed a number of New Zealand Qualifications Authority unit standards for forestry operations and safety.

Broad said the company had co-operated with his investigation.

"At the time, you concluded that the defendant hadn't failed to take any reasonably practicable steps [in relation to safety at work]?" Shannon asked.

"That is correct," Broad replied.

Judge Rea, "as a matter of respect", ended the day's evidence with a minute of silence to mark the anniversary of Brooking-Hodgson's death.

The trial is continuing.

This story was originally published by the New Zealand Herald.

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