Relatives fear slim rehabilitation hopes for sinkhole cyclist

sinkhole_620x310Relatives of a man who broke his neck riding his bike into a Waihi sink-hole fear he will remain a paraplegic with a slim chance of much rehabilitation.

“He’s got no movement from the neck down – it does not appear too promising that they’ll be able to rehabilitate him very much,” David Keys’ elder brother Ian told the Herald yesterday.

“It’s that particular point in his neck he has knocked around.”

He believed the stricken man, a 52-year-old weed-sprayer who he feared had been close to death when found by a council rubbish collector seven hours after falling into the hole in a park on Wednesday night, was likely to remain in Middlemore Hospital’s intensive care unit for some time.

His brother cycled each night to exercise his dog Bailey, who attracted the worker’s attention at about 4.15 the next morning by staying loyally beside him during his ordeal, in which he lay face-down in the hole.

Although there were no longer fears for his life, Mr Keys said: “His condition is not looking too good.”

But he said his brother was taking his predicament remarkably well, even though he could speak only in short bursts while a ventilator was removed from his face.

“I’m surprised how well he’s coping with it really.”

He said his brother was the youngest of four siblings, and father of an adult daughter who was travelling up and down from Hamilton to keep an eye on him in hospital.

Meanwhile, the family had received offers of support from many people and organisations including churches, the Hauraki District Council and the Newmont Mining Company, which runs a major gold producing operation in Waihi.

Although the site of the accident in Waihi East’s Morgan Park is only about 200m from a larger sinkhole above underground mine workings into which a house slumped in 2001, the council is confident mining is not to blame. Old mine records are understood to indicate a small tunnel about 300 metres underground but not directly beneath the latest sinkhole, which council chief executive Langley Cavers says is a natural tomo.

Mr Cavers said council engineers had been on site yesterday to inspect the hole, which they had been unaware of before the accident but which is now coned off, and would conduct a field investigation tomorrow to determine what may have caused the collapse.

“Once we know that we might be in a position to minimise the risk of it happening again,” he said.

He acknowledged that an old capped refuse tip existed nearby in the park, but did not believe it reached all the way to the tomo.

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