Profile: Riley Crump-Shrouder

By: Vivienne Haldane, Photography by: Vivienne Haldane

Twenty-year-old Riley Crump-Shrouder is in his happy place at work on an excavator in a quarry in Hawke’s Bay

As he deftly works the controls, he’s all concentration, and you can see how proud Doug Brightwell is of his young employee.

"He’s doing well; he’s a natural," Doug says. 

Doug is proud of Riley’s progress as an operator

Riley was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was nine months old after being severely injured at birth, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing what he loves — working with heavy machinery.

"Riley has always had an unstoppable attitude," says his mother, Michelle Crump.

He joined Doug at Tikokino Contractors in central Hawke’s Bay 10 months ago and has been working three days a week, under supervision and gaining as much time in the driver’s seat as possible.

"Every day Riley shows up for work, he demonstrates his capability. He’s determined, too," says Doug.

Michelle recalls how tough a journey it has been.

"When he was three, doctors told us to go looking for wheelchairs because it was likely he wouldn’t walk. We refused to believe it and searched hard for alternative solutions."

An integral part of the team

Sumitomo SH210LC) stock piling down the river

Riley had some work experience with Mabey Earthworks at Angora Forest for a few weeks and was looking for the next step. At the same time, Doug was looking for a junior operator, saw the Job Search van in town, and stopped in for a chat.

"The guy there mentioned Riley, and we progressed from there," he says.

Doug’s son Joe brought in his 1.5-tonne excavator for Riley to start on.

Being in the industry and around operators all the time, Doug saw he had the knack for it. It gave him the confidence to take Riley on as an apprentice.

"We looked for a mentor, but the guy we had in mind was too busy, so in the end, we said, ‘let’s do it ourselves’, and it’s worked out very well.

"Riley and I have been tied to each other since he started, and then there have been others. When I think he’s getting a little bit sick of me, someone else will step in to help him."

Everyone benefits

Cat 725 being loaded by the Sumitomo

Doug adds that having Riley as part of the crew has benefited everyone.

"No single person can take credit for how Riley has come along: the Ministry of Social Development, with their Job Seeker programme, his mum and family have all helped Riley along this path. The guys at work have allowed him to load the trucks and my sons are supportive. It’s a close-knit team, and everyone has become involved. I wouldn’t call it a challenge; it’s a progression watching Riley develop his skills.

"We are just a little team, and in this business, you spend lots of time on your own, so having Riley around is good. If he needs me, I pull back from what I am doing to check what he’s doing. It’s been a learning experience for me, too."

Doug’s been in the earthmoving business for 40 years, having previously operated earthmoving machinery at the Hatuma Lime Company before leaving to go out on his own. The contracting company extracts red metal in two quarries on the edge of the Waipawa River and offers clients a blend of earthmoving and landscaping work.

Famous in Waipawa

The Cat 730C carting metal from river to quarry

Riley has received a bit of publicity in the last year – various articles in the media and a television story mean the locals now know who he is.

"We can’t go down the main street without people stopping us along the way," says Michelle.

His family’s positive attitude has helped Riley. From the outset, Michelle says she refused to believe that Riley couldn’t be helped and set her mind to finding solutions. Through word of mouth, she heard of Conductive Education in Auckland. The programme focuses on supporting people with motor disorders to help them enhance their lives and gain confidence and independence.

When Riley was three, he and Michelle were away for six weeks in Auckland.

"The people at Conductive Education got him up and walking, and from then on, he’s been one of those kids you can’t say no to; he’ll go ahead and try it anyway."

At school, Riley tackled everything the same as everyone else and this hasn’t changed, says Michelle.

At Central Hawke’s Bay College in Waipukurau, he was House Captain, Prince of the Ball in Year 12, and won the Endeavour Award for outstanding effort and determination. He completed cross-country events at school with the help of a walking frame that he’d used until he was seven before no longer needing it.

Outgoing and with a great sense of humour, Riley was popular among his peer group. He’s still got the same group of mates he started school with, says Michelle.

Excavator work

Riley at work stockpiling in the Sumitomo SH210LC

Riley got his first taste of excavator work when his stepdad, Jono, who works on excavators in the forestry industry, took him out one day and let Riley do some rolling work on a bulldozer a Case 2050 Bulldozer. He also used a Cat Roller and a Volvo ECR235 excavator. Jono noticed how he had an intuitive feel for operating it.

Michelle says while Riley’s co-ordination is a little shaky, it doesn’t affect how he operates the excavator. She thinks that since he’s been working for Doug, it’s improved.

"His balance, his co-ordination is so much better. He’s steadier overall; I can see a big difference," she says.

Riley agrees: "I’m not even having to think about it."

Bright future

Riley and his mum, Michelle Crump

Riley’s positive attitude and the support he has means his future looks bright. There’s much to learn, but he’s not daunted; he’ll take it a step at a time.

"Extracting metal in the quarry is the starting point, then he will reach the stage where he can get his Wheels, Tracks and Rollers (WTR) licence," Doug says.

"We’ve already asked WorkSafe about this. We initially thought it would be a barrier if Riley can’t get his WTR, but they said as long as he’s supervised, it’s fine. He’s getting his hours in the seat, and that’s bigger than anything. I know he’ll be an excellent operator. No doubt about it."

When DOW met Riley, he had set a goal to get his car driver’s licence before Christmas so he could travel to the South Island with his mates in the summer. He’s worked hard, so it was time to have fun.   

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