Police investigate series of accidents on trail ride

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The man who died at a school fundraising event in Otago is a husband, father, colleague and friend.

Tokomairiro High School PTA chairperson Lynne Johnston said the school was devastated by the death of a rider during the trail ride.

Saturday marked the 18th Instalment of the popular trail ride, which is held annually near Milton as a fundraiser for the Tokomairiro High School.

Multiple people were hurt and one person died.

“Our hearts go out to this man’s family and friends as they deal with the loss of their husband, father, colleague and friend. Our focus at this time is to support the family and those affected by this tragic accident,” she said.

Two other riders, involved in single-vehicle crashes, needed to be airlifted because the remote location where their accidents occurred, Johnstone said.

Other injuries dealt with ranged from a broken collar bone through to a sprained wrist and cuts and grazes, she said.

Johnstone thanked the community for their support, and thanked emergency services for their “tireless work”.

A rescue pilot has described the fateful Lake to the Sea Motorcycle Trail Ride as a traumatic day for all involved.

Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust chief pilot Graeme Gale said the situation could have been worse had the riders in three separate crashes not been carrying locator beacons.

Otago Rescue responded to two distress signals during the race on Saturday. One rider died and 11 were injured in three separate crashes.

“This is an absolute tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families and the organisers,” Gale said. “Everyone is heartbroken after what should have been a fun event.”

* Man killed, 11 injured, at off-roading event in Otago
* Serious injuries after motorcycle crash in Dunedin
* Two injured in motorcycle crash near Queenstown

Senior search and rescue officer Keith Allen said the riders were carrying inReach devices, which allowed them to send brief text messages with their distress call.

The trail track goes from Narrowdale Rd, near Milburn, through forestry, farmland and beaches to reach Toko Mouth, before returning to Milburn.

Allen said the fatality occurred in the forest area of the track.

A second beacon took rescuers to the coastal area, where they then heard of a third incident 150m away, he said.

Allen echoed Gale’s statement about the locator beacons, saying it would have taken rescue teams considerably longer to reach the injured riders without them.

A woman who answered event organiser Griff McLay’s phone said he would not be speaking to the media.

A police spokesperson said Sunday that inquiries into the series of motorcycle accidents were ongoing.

“We aren’t in a position to release the victim’s name yet, and the death has been referred to the coroner,” the spokesperson said.

In a statement on Sunday, Police said emergency services responded after two distress beacons were activated in the area about 12.10pm.

The Serious Crash Unit attended and examined the scenes, but information on the causes of the accidents has not yet been released.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said he had been trying to contact the organisers of the event to find out what had happened, but was unable to reach anyone.

Given that he had few facts about the accidents, Cadogan felt it would be inappropriate for him to comment on them.

However, the fundraiser was a longstanding and successful event for the area, he said.

“Our thought go out to the family and friends of the people involved,” he said.

A motorcyclist died at the scene and two people were transported to Dunedin Hospital via rescue helicopter with serious injuries.

A St John spokeswoman said another three patients were taken to hospital with moderate injuries and one person was transported from the scene in a private vehicle.

A Dunedin Hospital duty manager was unable to share the condition of the injured riders as their names had not been released.

A further five patients were treated at the scene.

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