He never stood a chance

Normally I’d make fun about Darwin getting his man, but there isn’t an awful lot of humour in a situation where someone climbs a pole and them jumps to their death assuming they will fall into the pool.   Here’s the property in Gisborne where the tragedy occurred:


As you can see, the lighting is for the tennis court, and not the swimming pool.  The overhead view will make this painfully obvious.  

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The light pole at the rear of the left hand side of the tennis court is the one he scaled and you can see on the image the distance to the pool edge is 3 meters, meaning he would have needed roughly 4 meters to clear the pool edge safely.

“I’m just going to carry him with me wherever I go,” says the best mate of Ben Sargent, who died in a New Year’s Eve pool jump that went badly wrong.

Sargent, 20, a carpet-layer, had climbed up a 10-metre tennis court lighting pole at a friend’s house in Gisborne and tried to jump into the pool. He landed on paving instead, and died in Gisborne Hospital soon afterwards from his injuries.

Scott Tallott, 18, was there when Sargent fell, and witnessed the last moments of his life in intensive care. The pair had been close since boyhood, Tallott said.

“I was there from age 10 to his very last breath,” he said. “I was in the ICU when he passed. I’m just never going to be able to shake that. I’m just going to carry him with me wherever I go.”

Tallott said that what led to Sargent’s death began as the sort of high-spirited stunt for which the pair were known. A group of friends were waiting for a taxi to take them to the Rhythm and Vines music festival when Sargent climbed the pole.

“It was nothing but an accident. He loved a bit of a risk, that was sort of our gig. That’s exactly why nobody stopped him, because people had seen us do stuff like that all the time. It was like, ‘Benny’s going to do another stunt’.”

I once attended a presentation by Celia Lashlie who worked in prisons.  She observed a lot of basically good young men end up in a place like that because of a single brain fart.  In fact, she says the biggest challenge for young men growing up is to not have a brain fart that changes your life.  Or in this case, ends it.

Some years ago, I watched as a mate climbed a suspension bridge support.  We all watched him do it, because he was normally doing stupid stunts like that.  Suddenly, he grabbed the well greased suspension cable with his hands and slid down to the ground.

As he hit the ground, looking at me with the widest smile, he asked why I had a look of horror on my face.   “Well, you’re a builder, and all it would have taken was for one strand of that steel cable to be poking out and you would have sliced all your fingers off”.

“Oh, didn’t think about that”.


– The Dominion Post


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  • who’stoblame

    Stupid is as stupid does…

  • Reminds me of the time as a 18-19 year old I jumped into the Manawatu River from a great height. Hit the water arms flailing, hurt my personals and was quite badly winded but lived to tell the story. Risk is fun. Why else do people climb mountains, launch themselves out of aeroplanes and ride roller-coaters?

    • minnie

      HaHa me too, personals ok but everything else hurt!!!

    • Cadwallader

      Was that from the old Fitzherbert Bridge which you could walk along the top of if you’d had enough to drink first?

      • Nope, I’ve never done that, my venture was from what remains of the Old Balance Bridge at the northern end of the Manawatu Gorge, see pic on my first comment. The water was a lot lower when I did it. And no, I hadn’t been drinking, just youthful foolishness, something I “just wanted to do.”

      • Saggy

        Ha done that. Problem was crawling to the top of the arch was easy. Suddenly got very sober and very scared once up there and had a shakey crawl down the other side.
        edit: to say this was some time ago

    • oldmanNZ

      Only difference is that some risk adventure are carefully planned so that you survived, like wearing a parachutes with backup,

  • oldmanNZ

    Simply, these kids never really paid attention to physics, to go 4 m from top of a pole from zero velocity will require a bit of a push, try jumping 2 metres from a spot.
    Also, would the pool be deep enough? And as they were waiting for a taxi, if he did, made it, he would be wet? Taxi wont let you in wet.

    If i was his mate, even at that age, i would have stop him.

  • Betty Swallocks

    Nowhere in the reporting of this incident have I seen any reference relating to consumption (or otherwise) of alcohol before he made the decision to climb a ten metre light pole from which he intended to jump into a domestic pool. Bearing in mind the fact that the pair were waiting for a taxi to take them to the Rhythm & Vines Festival I wonder if there was a bit of unacknowledged preloading.

    • “He was part of a group of friends drinking at the house where he died, and fell just as they were about to leave for the festival. But the party was “far from out of control”, according to the property owner, whose son was a friend of the dead man. There were about 20 of them around at the house, having a few drinks,” said the man, who asked not to be named. “It was far from out of control. It was very relaxed.”.”

      • Betty Swallocks

        Ah, hadn’t read that, thanks.

  • Tigger NZ

    I appreciate the compassionate tone of this article. Hopefully it’s a signal of future WOBH editorial direction – I’ve never been comfortable with dancing on people’s graves.

    • Unicorn

      Well, it’s a complete reversal from yesterday’s post on the same topic http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2015/01/stupid-stupid-darwin-claims-another/

      • Imogen B

        And a welcome reversal at that.

    • Garbageman

      So would you prefer W/O ended up like the MSM where just the so called “facts” are reported or would you rather come here and discuss the topic, talk about solutions, commiserate or condemn said topic, or would you prefer to continue to be force fed your news without discussion, input or calling into question the lines we are expected to swallow hook line and sinker from our msm who have been proven to be wrong, tainted and just downright lazy in most of their reporting, i would rather have a bit of rigorous debate (whether it offends sensibilities or not) than just go “oh damn another good Kiwi bloke died doing something silly

      • papagaya

        Garbageman, have you even followed this story over the last couple of days? Yesterday whaleoil described the dead guy as “stupid,” a bunch of readers took issue with that, the moderator couldn’t adequately defend the blog’s position and got his arse kicked. Today whaleoil has done a complete about face. Your argument doesn’t hold water here. Readers overwhelmingly don’t want this blog to speak ill of the dead. And whaleoil has listened, so that’s a good outcome.

        • Garbageman

          Seriously !! Arses kicked, about faces, readers overwhelmingly, i take that to mean you had a few comments go the way of your oh so insightful narrative, your opinion is not the be all and end all, and yes my above opinion holds a lot more water than your attempt at running this blog through the comments section

          • papagaya

            Move on, lone voice in the wilderness. Everyone else has.

  • KiwiM8

    This is exactly why the school in Swanson that has been in the news last week or so is so important. They are letting kids do things in the playground that in all other schools they are not allowed to do – climb trees, rough and tumble, play in mud … at least when they learn their limits at 6,7,8 years old, they will ‘think first’ before doing things like this when they’re in their late teens, early twenties. The ability to learn about limits has been taken away from our young people. Bad move. We need more schools like the Swanson school.

    • Lord Evans

      Good point M8, games like Bullrush were banned in the 1990’s due to ‘safety concerns’. Young Ben, and many like him, would most likely have missed out on much of this vital learning as a youngster. The other ingredients to this tragedy include alcohol which is a significant factor in teenage death statistics. Even if Ben Sargent was completely sober, according to the facts he took a huge risk. Add booze to the mix and you have impaired judgement and decreased co-ordination. The lessons in this case are harsh but hopefully other young people, including my own sons, will take heed.

  • Chris EM

    Unfortunately, alcohol can make you feel like Superman when you are young and fit. This, along with reduced brain function, can lead to things which we would normally realise is not possible.
    I was Superman a number of times a long time ago.

    • Huia

      I think most of us were (in my case superwoman), shudder when I think of some of the things we did and how very lucky we were not to have come to a sticky end. An 18 year old is 10 foot high and bullet proof especially after the consumption of alcohol, egged on by mates and being the dare devil in the bunch. Tragic for the family.

  • Skydog

    I know there’s been discussion about the deceased being stupid. I say there is some difference between being stupid and doing a stupid thing. This was a young man who like most of us pushed the boundaries due to inexperience and bravado.

    So if he is to be called stupid (I do not agree with that term one bit), what do we call three experienced climbers, who set off on a day walk from a Mt Cook Plateau camp with only soft shell clothing and no gear to survive nights?

    • Saggy

      And no personal locator beacon.
      Edit to say that I believe if you’re doing something which, if luck is against you, may involve people having to search for you then it’s your responsibility to make their job as easy as possible.

    • Carl

      I call them stupid and not very experienced to not be better prepared.

  • Dave

    I have been waiting for the calls for tighter safety regulations around lighting poles proximity to swimming pools. The need for safety should mean such a lighting pole is placed at least 10 metres away from the pool perimeter, oh wait, and then the house, and pool pavilion would be too close, and then the ………. perhaps its just better legislate against stupid people doing stupid things around poles and pools.

  • T. Akston

    Without doubt, an absolute tragedy. By all accounts a talented kid who won’t go on to express his potential. RIP.

    So what to do about this ? I half expect a coroner to recommend anti-climbing devices to become mandatory on lighting poles, policed by the council wallers.

    I say do nothing. I’m hoping it wasn’t just the beer talking, that it was a spirited kid who pushed the boundaries. The type who would pull a sled to the South Pole, for fun. Or row solo across the Tasman. Or set a lap record at the Isle of Man TT.

    Let us make our own decisions, and be accountable for our actions. We don’t need another layer of rules, more stuff banned, more costs of compliance.

  • Imogen B

    Rest in peace Ben Sargent.
    Sympathy to his family and friends.

  • Steve (North Shore)

    Back in the 70’s I jumped into the blowhole at Mt Maunganui 3 times. My choice and I lived. I could have mistimed it and hit the rocks. Third time I was bleeding, not serious, I learnt not to be stupid