Man died from head injury in Havelock North after pulling wheelie on motorbike - coroner

  • 09/01/2024
A view from outside the Cherry Grove Motel.
A view from outside the Cherry Grove Motel. Photo credit: Google

A man in Hawke's Bay died in April 2021 after doing "a wheelie" on his motorbike before crashing into a wall, the coroner says. 

According to coroner Heather McKenzie, the death of 27-year-old Donald Clifford happened after he "rode his new motorcycle across the lawn" of his family's Cherry Grove Motel in Havelock North before he "did a wheelie and crashed into a wall". 

"Emergency services attended but sadly Mr Clifford died at the scene," McKenzie said in her recently released report. 

"Mr Clifford died from a head injury sustained... No natural disease was identified that contributed to his death." 

She said Clifford had been riding motorbikes for many years. 

Medical notes showed Clifford had come off his motocross bike twice in February 2021, McKenzie said. 

Experts said his bike didn't have any mechanical faults at the time of the fatal crash, she added. 

And, while toxicology testing showed Clifford had THC in his blood at the time of the crash, "I am unable to say what, if any, part this played in the incident", the coroner said. 

Speaking to Stuff, Clifford's mum Karen said her son was "full of life and wanted to do everything". She added: "He wasn't hooning around the motel. He may have been doing a wheelie but it wasn't by choice." 

Concluding her report, McKenzie said she couldn't "make any safe findings as to why Mr Clifford crashed into the wall" based on the evidence before her. 

"It might be that Mr Clifford was unable to regain control of the bike after ending the wheelie," the report said. 

"However, because the crash was not witnessed and the CCTV camera footage did not include the crash itself, I cannot safely make a finding to this effect."