An “absolutely gorgeous” 5-year-old Motueka boy, killed instantly when a log rolled on to him, was “adored by everyone”, a relative says.
Glenn Te Miha-Barlow was playing with his sisters on a pile of logs by a Motueka High School rugby field when the accident happened yesterday. He had only started school this week.
Police Sergeant Rob Crawford said a group of children were playing on the log pile about 5.45pm.
“A number of children were jumping up and down on the top of the pile and the deceased was on the ground at the bottom of the pile.
“The jumping dislodged a log that rolled off the top of the pile, killing the boy instantly.”
The boy and his parents, who are from Motueka, were visiting friends at a nearby house, Crawford said.
A family member said Glenn was “absolutely gorgeous and adored by everyone”.
“He was the apple of his Mum and Dad’s eye. He was named after his father’s brother who was killed in Australia.”
The woman said Glenn had three older sisters aged 7, 10 and 12.
His death had devastated everyone and she said trying to explain what had happened to the children was going to be hard.
The woman said Glenn had been playing with his sisters when the accident happened.
It was likely Glenn would be returned to the marae today and be buried on Monday or Tuesday, she said.
Glenn’s grandfather, Fred Te Miha, said he was very close to his grandson.
Kim Ruri, from Te Awhina Marae kohanga reo, was this morning sitting with Glenn, together with her husband, Alf, Glenn’s teacher.
“He’s our taonga,” Ruri said.
“We’ve had him [at kohanga] since he was born, and his three older sisters have all come through the kohanga.”
She said Glenn was a sweet, curious, thoughtful boy who was always looking after others. He enjoyed waiata and kapa haka, where he would often lead with a karakia.
“He was a good leader, he was nurturing,” she said.
“We had babies and he was always there cuddling them, making sure they were all right and getting them toys. He was different to other tamariki we had there. He liked to spend a lot of time with the babies and caring for them.
“He had that mature soul to him. He loved climbing, he always liked to get up on things and see what was over the fence and how far he could get up the tree,” she said.
“He’s the apple of his father’s eye. He was the baby, and the only boy.”
On Tuesday, they had a powhiri for Glenn to send him off to Motueka’s Parklands School, where he was to start his primary school years.
“He was more than ready; going with his sisters was ideal for him, they were going to look after him,” Ruri said.
“We were just starting to see the potential there.”
She said the other children at kohanga reo were “pretty devastated”.
“We had five tamariki recently go off to school and Glenn was the last of the 5-year-olds,” she said.
“We’re all very close. They’ll all remember him dearly.”
Te Awhina marae tumuaki (leader) Ann Martin said the marae was closed today to lend support to Glenn’s family.
“Any child that’s lost is a child too many. All the services are closed down to support the family. Tangi comes first.”
She said the family had close links to the community.
“The family has lived in this community for I don’t know how many years, so they’ve got all those networks.”
At the accident scene, the poplar-trunk pile, which contained about 30 to 40 logs, was about two metres high, with trunks up to a metre in diameter.
The pile was next to shrubs and a fence, which separated the school from the rear of houses in McGlashen St.
Motueka High School board of trustees chairman Ian Palmer said a contractor felled the five trees on Wednesday afternoon.
The Tasman District Council required the school to fell them because they were rotting.
Palmer did not know who the contractor was but said the school supported the police and Department of Labour’s investigations into the accident.
Crawford this morning said police and the department had completed scene examinations.
“We will be running an investigation alongside each other.”
One of the logs had been removed by 9am, and he said the rest would be removed today.
Motueka High pupils were not allowed on the field this morning.
‘AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN’
A friend and neighbour of Glenn Te Miha-Barlow said the tragedy was an “accident waiting to happen”.
Helen Tuuta today was in disbelief about the loss of one of Motueka’s young sons.
“This was an accident waiting to happen. I can’t believe there was no barriers or signs to let kids know it wasn’t safe. That’s all it would’ve taken was a bit of bright plastic … we have lost one of our kids from this community.”
She wanted answers about why the accident had happened.
The pile of logs was unbalanced with large logs on top of smaller ones.
“What 5-year-old wouldn’t think that was a pirate ship or a spaceship and play on it?”
Heads needed to roll, she said.
When she first heard news of the accident she could not comprehend it.
“I went out the front and the police car pulled up and I knew it was true. It’s like an illusion.”
At the scene this morning, five or six family members and friends had gathered, watching as Neil Jackson Contracting workers began removing the large pile of logs.
Candles and flowers lay at the scene, where they had been placed earlier.
Tuuta said Glenn’s sisters saw the accident and she worried how they would cope.
She said the high school field was the centre of the Motueka community and if children could not play safely there, “where the hell can they go?”