When he was 14 Gareth Pugh had never been happier. A country boy at heart he was taking part in a specially adapted programme in which he attended school part time and gained work experience as an apprentice game keeper for the remainder of the week.
But he lost his life one November weekend when he had gone to help out on a South Shropshire country estate in his free time. Gareth died instantly when he was thrown violently from the quad bike he was riding. The all terrain vehicle had been adapted to carry a tray at the front and a hopper on the back and was overloaded. Gareth was not heavy enough to handle either the size or weight of the vehicle and he had never received any safety training relating to riding it.
His mother, Caroline, of Clunton, near Craven Arms, Shropshire, says it is more than six years since the accident but the family will never recover from Gareth's loss. "Gareth had had problems at school. He suffered with diabetes and hated having to inject himself. He was always at his happiest outside and so when the special programme was put together – part work and part school he really settled down. I am from a farming background myself and he was a real country boy. At home there was a model tractor display in his bedroom, he loved fishing and kept ferrets.
"We were all happy for him. On the day of the accident I had dropped him off at the estate where he assisted the gamekeeper with feeding the birds .It was a Sunday, his day off, but he loved the work so much he was quite happy to go in and help in his free time. There was some happy banter when I left him and he said he would ring me when he wanted picking up. When I received a call mid afternoon I thought it was him. But it was to say that Gareth had been involved in an accident.
"He had been riding the quad bike down one side of the wood with the gamekeeper riding down the other side. The quad bike had thrown him off so violently that he when he hit his back on the seed tray at the front he had been killed instantly. Attempts at the accident scene and the hospital to revive him all failed.
"I had asked and asked my son whether he was riding a quad bike and he had always said no. I believed him and I also thought that working on an estate of that size there would be a safety programme.. It was devastating to learn when the official investigation into his death was carried out that he had been riding the bike, that there had been no training, that the bike was much too big for a boy of his age, that adaptations had been made to the machine and its tyre pressures were not correct. He had done what he had been told to do and had been placed in a very dangerous situation which went against all the care he had been given as a child at home growing up.
"I find Christmas day and Mother's day particularly hard. We still talk about Gareth as if he were here as it is one way of dealing with the grief. He would have been 21 now. His younger brother and sister and friends have missed him terribly. Gareth was a loving boy. Only a month before he was killed he had donated his organs to help others. Someone now has better eyesight and a better heart thanks to him.
"Gareth's is not the only young life to be lost in this way. It is so important that people know that training is required to ride these vehicles, that protective head gear is necessary. I have seen people working on farms in our area riding them carelessly at speed and I know they are actually bought as presents for youngsters to ride around on. Care, awareness and proper training is needed as without it the risk of death or serious injury is too great."