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25/10/2014

Police warn death-wish skaters

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Wild ride: Stills from video of Amauri Canina (bottom) ripping down the Crown Range Road (top) between Queenstown and Wanaka – and crossing the centreline towards an oncoming car on Fernhill Road
Skateboarders are dicing with death on Queenstown roads – and police say they must start to act as responsibly as motorists. 

A heart-stopping new YouTube video shows one skater as he bombs down the steep and winding Crown Range Road at speeds approaching 85kmh. 

And earlier this week, emergency services rushed to downtown’s Ballarat Street about 2am after a runaway skateboarder crashed into a car and flew over the bonnet. The 19-year-old Brazilian victim dislocated his shoulder and received cuts and bruises. 

Police say accidents involving riders of longboards – large skateboards – are common. 

The YouTube clip features another Brazilian skater Amauri Canina riding a ‘freeboard’ downhill on the Crown Range and at Fernhill. 

The 32-year-old goes close to several oncoming cars, crosses into the other lane and shoots through a roundabout in the seven-minute clip. But he insists he was in full control. 

Canina says: “It is not as dangerous as it looks. 

“When people watch it they see you are going really fast and quite close to the cars but you have good control on it.”

"A freeboard is completely different to a longboard. It’s more like a snowboard, the same movements but on pavement, and you can stop quickly.

"Of course there is risk, but I’m not crazy. I’ve been doing it for five years and have protection, a helmet and pads. My brother is driving a car behind me. I slow down enough to stop at roundabouts and stay on my side of the road when there are cars.

"I agree longboards can be dangerous. I see some kids with no experience who have just bought them from a shop and taken them out."

There have been several longboard deaths around the world in recent years and it is banned on the roads in many cities, such as Toronto, Canada.

Other videos show longboarders approaching speeds of 100kmh on the Crown Range. They can be bought for about $300 in Queens­town shops.

Senior constable Sean Drader says: "You have to have the same obligations as driving a car – you have to act responsibly and be able to stop.

"We’ve had quite a few crashes over the years. The problems are caused when skaters are going too fast, are out of control and use both lanes.

"The Ballarat St skater couldn’t slow down or take the corner and hit a car at the bottom.

"[Canina] uses both lanes and the cars coming the other way don’t have more than a few seconds to react. The drivers are probably quite freaked out.

"He’s on a 50kmh road and could be breaking that. He has a certain level of control and is very good – it’s questionable whether he could be prosecuted for some of the things he’s doing."

Drader says a trouble spot is the intersection of Stanley St and Coronation Drive where skaters frequently shoot past on the inside of traffic which at times pauses to allow oncoming traffic to turn onto Coronation Drive.

A bylaw prohibits skateboards in the CBD and any "inconsiderate" riding throughout the Queenstown Lakes district. Tickets of $50 can be issued.

"We’re pretty good about enforcement," says Drader.

"We don’t want to get hardnosed with people and chase them down the street just for skateboarding.

"But I’ve caught people doing it drunk. If they are irresponsible, they’re in breach of the bylaw, and could be held responsible for injuries to themselves or others.

"In that case there is no sympathy because it’s stupid."

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