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Weybridge Vandals player died in tragic New Zealand accident, coroner rules
A Weybridge Vandals player who travelled to New Zealand in his gap year to see the Lions play the All Blacks died in a tragic accident, an inquest heard.
Tom Sewell, 19, from West Byfleet, died after the quad bike he was driving on a fruit farm hit a tree on June 12, 2008.
After completing his A-levels at Gordon’s School, Woking, Mr Sewell had planned to take a year out before starting a war history degree at the University of Kent.
Mr Sewell planned to go to Australia for eight weeks and decided to divert to New Zealand to see the rugby match.
Two days before the match Mr Sewell was in the accident. It was his first day working on a kiwi fruit farm in Katikati.
The quad bike was used to travel between fields at the kiwi farm and was used by everybody because of the distance involved and the sharp incline.
New Zealand coroner Dr Wallace Bain said in his witness statement: “Tom drove across the orchard and it seems he needed to make a change of direction and lost control of the vehicle and collided with a tree. He was thrown forward and his head hit the tree.”
Mr Sewell, who was wearing a seatbelt but no a crash helmet, which were not provided, suffered a fracture to his skull and intracranial bleeding and died from the affects of trauma.
The speed Mr Sewell was travelling at is unknown.
Mr Sewell’s parents visited the farm in June 2010. They walked the distance Mr Sewell travelled and said the track was “very rough and potted”. They said the first part of the track was fairly straight then there was a very sharp bend to the right.
Linda Sewell, Tom’s mother, said: “After the bend, it was very steep and rutted and on the left there were a lot of conifer trees. In front of the trees was a bit of a ditch. This was where the accident happened.”
It is thought that Mr Sewell had not been given the proper training to use the quad bike, but the keys had been left in the vehicle despite the farm owner being off-site.
Richard Travers, coroner at Woking Coroner’s Court, said: “Tom decided to ride the quad bike. It would seem there were rules about the use of the quad bike which were not written rules but implied rules. I’m not sure how they were meant to know about these rules.
“I should point out that Tom wasn’t behaving foolishly or taking risks. It is not clear exactly how or why the accident happened but what is clear is he struck a tree with some force.
“I conclude a death of a tragic accident.
“I am very mindful of the distress suffered by the family and friends and I offer you my sincere condolences. He was obviously a very remarkable young man.”
Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Sewell said: “He was popular and had a huge number of friends and that was evident at his funeral as Guildford Cathedral was completely full. He was very sporty and loved his rugby.”
His father, Ken Sewell, said: “He was not the sort of lad to take risks and was very careful and well behaved.”
Mr Sewell had played rugby with the Weybridge Vandals since he was four-years-old.
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