Whānau of man who died after falling from railing want to raise awareness of risks

6:00 pm on 30 May 2024
Tim Rogers, owned a business named Tim’s Tuk-Tuk taxi service, while studying in Dunedin.

Tim Rogers was described as being '"caring, generous and family-orientated" by loved ones. Photo: RNZ/Ian Telfer

Whānau of a young man killed in a freak accident at Auckland's Viaduct Basin want the public to be aware of the risks of sitting on barriers and railings in the area.

Coroner Matthew Bates recently released his findings into the death of 24-year-old Tim Rogers, who died after being on life support at Auckland City Hospital after attempting to sit on a railing in the precinct.

On Waitangi Day in 2020, Rogers, described as being '"caring, generous and family-orientated", by loved ones, went to a concert with friends before heading to a bar in the viaduct.

Bates noted he had some drinks throughout the night before stepping outside for some air.

CCTV captured Rogers attempting to hoist himself up, backwards, to sit on nearby railing - the first attempt failed, while the second attempt was more "forceful", Bates said, and caused Rogers to overbalance and fall backwards, from a height of 4.8m, onto a concrete platoon below.

He never regained consciousness and died of his injuries in hospital the next day.

It was found the handrail Rogers fell from complied with the Building Code when it was constructed in 2000, but seven years later, changes to the code were made, to improve safety, but there was no legal requirement to alter the handrail to discourage people using it as seating.

Warning signage about sitting or climbing on the railings had also been removed over time, Bates said.

Whānau call for change

Following the death of Rogers, his whānau has called for changes to be made to the Viaduct Basin to ensure no one else is killed or seriously injured in a similar way.

A month after Rogers' death, his parents, partner and brother spoke to the Panuku board directly and outlined suggestions on making the area safer, including adding more seating, putting safety netting below the railings and making the railing bars pointed, rather than flat, so they cannot be sat on.

They told the board there had been two previous non-fatal incidents in the same area in 2011 and 2012, where people went over the barrier and landed on the pontoon below. One of these people was believed to have cracked their skull.

Bates said Panuku considered the suggestions and found it would not be feasible to have safety nets under the railings, but alterations to the safety of the railings would be made.

Rogers' whānau said they understood people still attempt to climb on or sit on the barriers in the viaduct. They told Bates they wanted to raise public awareness of the dangers involved with it.

"I acknowledge this behaviour cannot be eliminated absolutely," Bates said, but agreed there were "very real risks" with that sort of behaviour.

Coroner's recommendations

Bates recommended Panuku consider putting more public seating in the viaduct basin as well as considering altering or replacing the barriers that were not up to current code.

He also noted prominent warning signs of the dangers of sitting on the railings should be put in place.

A Panuku spokesperson told Bates safety improvements had been made to the railings and additional seats had been added.

Because of this, permanent warning signage was not needed, the spokesperson said.