Grief can unmake a person, but one woman is channelling her energy into making sure that no family suffers as hers has done.
Mel Irvin is fighting for better quad bike safety and has even brought a series of training sessions out to Barellan to do so.
“Because no one really knows about it. Not until I looked into it did I realise how dangerous they are.”
Since 2011, 115 people have been killed in quad bike accidents, including 32 in NSW alone. One of those victims was Ms Irvin’s young son Connor (pictured). Connor was only seven years old when the quad bike he was riding on rolled earlier this year. He was supervised and wearing a helmet during the accident.
According to statistics published by SafeWork Australia, there were over 200 quad bike related deaths in Australia between 2000 and 2014. An additional 18 deaths in 2015 with over 64% of these deaths occurring on farms. This makes quad bikes the highest killer of people on farms in Australia.
The majority of quad bike accidents have involved incidents of ‘roll over’, where the rider of the quad bike is injured when the bike tips or ‘rolls’ onto the rider.
Ms Irvin said Connor became another of these statistics while riding a quad bike on the family farm at Barellan.
“It’s not that we were naive or complacent but just never ever thought this could ever happen to our us. These types of accidents happen to ‘other people’. You read about them online and social media and shed a tear for them, but never think that it could actually happen to you. Connor was so many things, a son, a brother, a grandson, a best mate and beautiful soul that brought so much joy to our lives and the lives of people who met him.
“His death has changed our whole family forever, it is something that I hope no family never has to endure. Words can barely describe the heartache and loss that we experience every single day. So many questions go through my mind, the ‘what ifs and if only’, it’s debilitating. My grief won’t ever go away but it is something I have to find a way to live with, as does my family.”
Connor’s death not only affected his family, but his school mates and the whole community of Barellan. Ms Irvin said it was her hope that after reading this, it will encourage people to take up the free course on offer.
“It could save your life or the life of your loved one. Please don’t look back on this and think it won’t happen to you, because in the blink of an eye everything can change. My family is proof of that.
“It’s not rare; it was 11 cases in three years. There have been a few accidents since Connor. I’ve got a friend whose father was pinned under a bike. You never realise how heavy they are until you have to try to lift one off somebody.”
Connor’s death has left his family reeling and utterly bereft, but through it all Ms Irvin is trying to make something positive out of something so senseless.
“I think after six months Connor’s death is becoming a reality. Losing a child to a tragic, yet preventable accident can totally change your whole world.”
“Emotionally, mentally, physically, relationally and spiritually. Intense, unpredictable emotions can hijack us at a moment’s notice. Our minds spin. We forget things. It feels like we’re going crazy. Our bodies get hit. Our health can be impacted.
“Our souls feel crushed, shaking our faith and what we think we believe. Our relationships change. A deep loneliness of the heart can set in. Our plans and dreams are shattered. We’re now in uncharted territory. Yes, the loss of a child affects everything,” she said.
Her message is: “Honour your child with your grief , love those around you, even with a broken heart, live life as well as possible while in the midst of great pain. Make your child’s life count in deep and powerful ways. The death of a child cannot be fixed. We will never be the same, but we have to survive. And to some degree, we hope to heal.”
The training sessions at Barellan will cover quad bike on-farm safety.
“It’s free if you’ve got an ABN and are a primary producer. They bring the quad bikes out and the helmets. Once you’ve done the training you could be eligible for up to $1000 in a grant to improve safety,” Ms Irvin said.
The training is through the NSW Quad Bike Improvement Program which began in 2016 as an initiative of Safe Work NSW in conjunction with Tocal College. The program is free to eligible farmers. Atten-dees will receive a free helmet as well. Farmers who attend the training will also be eligible for a rebate to improve quad bike safety on their properties.
“With the rebate, as soon as they do this course they’re eligible to get proper safety equipment. I hope the Barellan farmers pass it on to their kids. Even if it saves one more life.”
Ms Irvin said the training isn’t limited to Barellan.
“If you’ve got a venue to do the course, then the trainer will go to you. They need six people and they can go up to 12 people. Even if it saves one life it’s worth it,” she said.