Mum pleads for age restrictions for quad bikes after tragedy
SAM Cason was just 11-years-old when he lost his life riding on a quad bike.
His family had only recently moved to the rural suburb of Numurkah, north of Shepparton when Sam went for a sleepover at a friend's house on a dairy farm - and never came home.
During the early hours of October 3, 2011, Sam and his friend jumped on the back of a quad to round up some cattle on the farm.
Having never ridden a quad before, Sam's friend - who was also 11 - took control of the bike while Sam rode along as a passenger.
"They spotted a cow during the ride which had wire wrapped around its leg," Sam's mother, Emily Cason, told news.com.au.
"The friend [who cannot be named] asked Sam to go and get his dad to help with the cow, so Sam drove off into the paddock on the quad but never made it up to the dairy."
Somewhere between leaving his friend in the paddock and where the dairy was situated on the property - Sam came off the 150kg quad.
"We never found out exactly what caused him to fall off," Mrs Caston said.
"He didn't hit a tree or a ditch, he was just found flat on his back and the quad bike next to him on its side."
Sam's fall had caused him to hit the back of his head, sustaining injuries so severe - he died instantly.
"The back of his head was smashed in, and that's what obviously killed him," Mrs Cason said.
"He nor his friend wore a helmet. Because only employees on the dairy would sometimes wear them, but not the kids."
Mrs Cason said she was home when the police made their way to her front door, and broke the news that her eldest child wouldn't be coming home.
"My brain just shut down," she said.
"I couldn't comprehend because he was just a child. I thought it was a mistake. They said his accident was going to be on the news, so I tried to let as many people know as possible."
Mrs Cason and her husband Dean weren't allowed to go to the farm straight away, as police needed to assess the scene to determine Sam's cause of death.
"We got told to wait at home, but they left Sam until 4pm lying out in a paddock," she said.
"That was hard to take, and if I had my time over I wish I'd just gone out there."
Sam's death six years ago is just one tragedy in a growing list of fatalities from quad bike accidents.
This week, a six-year-old girl was killed and another injured in an accident in NSW, after one of the bikes - which was allegedly carrying three children - left the road and hit trees.
The girl's death comes less than two months after another young child, a boy aged seven, was killed at Griffith in the Riverina.
According to SafeWork Australia there have been five deaths from quad bike accidents this year alone - two of the victims being under the age of 10.
Since 2001, there have been 231 quad bike deaths across the country - with 43 of those fatalities being kids under the age of 16.
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons is urging the NSW Government to ban the use of quad bikes by children, following the latest tragedies.
"Quad bikes and kids do not mix. We need effective controls to prevent these tragedies," RACS Trauma Committee Chair Dr John Crozier, said in a statement.
"These deaths can be prevented if restrictions are put in place that reflect the danger that these machines pose to young riders.
"In Massachusetts for example, a ban on children under 14 years riding quad bikes nearly halted deaths, and halved the number of brain injuries in children."
For many farmers across the country, quad bikes - like most terrain vehicles - are an indispensable tool.
As it stands in Australia there are limited requirements for the rider or passenger of a quad bike or ATV on private land.
Last month, Queensland introduced new laws in response to the high rate of quad bike deaths and accidents across the state.
Under the new regulation, children under the age of 8 are prohibited from being carried as passengers while not wearing a helmet.
In 2015, Victoria became the first state to require mandatory rollover protection to be fitted to quad bikes used in the workplace, including farms.
But quad bike trainer and member of the Quad Bike Industry Reference Group Colin Lawson said it was education was key to increasing safety.
"The trick is to educate operators on what's actually causing these fatalities and how can you limit the risk to yourself or your employees or family," he told the ABC.
"And this is the problem we're coming across, talking to farmers they don't believe they need to be trained in quad bike riding because they've been doing it for 20 years."
While Mrs Cason doesn't want to stop kids from helping on their family farm, she does see a need to regulate - and ban - anyone under the age of 16 from driving them.
"They are like little cars, they are extremely dangerous and I was naive on how bad they were," she said.
"My aim would be to see kids under 16 banned from riding them. Not as passengers, or as drivers. I would also like to see more education for the older generation using these bikes, so when their kids reach 16 - then they too can be educated.
"I don't want to stop kids from helping on farms, but there has to be a middle ground where kids are kept safe."
Mr and Mrs Cason started a Facebook group called "Fight for Sam" , campaigning for quad bike safety. Mrs Cason said she also started the page as a space for people who have gone through a similar tragedy to discuss their experience, and what can be done to stop further accidents.
"It's these small steps that I hope one day will make a big difference," she said.
"Sam was a great kid. A protector of his little brother and sister and the light in my life. He loved his footy and his mates. He was kind natured and you couldn't help but feel better about the world when he shot you one of his cheeky grins.
"There's a lot of concerned people out there who want to see quad bike laws changed."