Teenager who ‘adored’ farm machinery died after falling head-first from defective tractor | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

A 14-year-old boy who “adored” farm machinery, died after he fell head-first from a defective tractor.

Had the tractor not been defective, the child, Michael ‘Haulie’ Murphy, would not have fallen to his death, Cork Coroner’s Court heard.

Haulie had been riding in a tractor on which multiple defects were found by a subsequent Garda public service vehicle inspection.

The door that Haulie fell out of had a defective latch which had prompted the use of cable ties to keep it secure.

Other defects were also found on the tractor and trailer, including dangerously threadbare tyres and broken brake lights.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster said that the cause of death was a severe traumatic brain injury consistent with a fall from a tractor.

She told Haulie’s distraught family that he would not have suffered any pain and would have been rendered unconscious immediately.

He couldn’t have been suffering. He would have known nothing at all.

Haulie had asked for a lift on the tractor at a farm owned by George Ross, where his father worked.

Stephen Murphy, who was also working on the farm at the time, had returned to the farm yard to fill the tractor with diesel when he said Haulie asked for a lift and he agreed.

However, as they were driving down a straight section of road at Knocknacullota, Killavullen, Co Cork, on August 23, 2013, Haulie “was leaning against the door and the door popped open and he fell,” Mr Murphy said.

Tony Mullane was driving on the same road at the time. He had pulled over to give the tractor more space to pass, when he saw it veer on the road and the boy fell out.

“His head hit the ground and he may have hit it a second time, he bounced,” Mr Mullane said.

A restraining bar, which would have acted as a safety belt, and a child safety lock had not been in use at the time of the incident.

Haulie had recently finished his Junior Certificate.

He was well liked at the farm and was described warmly as a “lovely young lad” who loved farm work and wanted to work on a farm, like his father.

His father, Patrick Murphy, worked for Mr Ross’ animal feed and silage-contracting business.

Mr Murphy had been speaking to his son that evening, minutes before the tragedy.

He rushed to the scene with his wife when he was told of the accident, before Haulie was airlifted to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Dangerous vehicle

Health and Safety Authority inspector Gerard McSweeney noted that the vehicle Haulie was travelling in was dangerous at the time of the tragedy.

The tractor cab had a misaligned door, which caused other problems, and in an apparent attempt to fix defects the cab had been modified at some point, which had failed, and which contravened the operators’ manual, which said the cab could not be modified.

Garda John White of the Public Service Vehicle test said that the tractor and trailer had not been maintained in accordance with the law. The defects were clearly visible to anyone taking ordinary levels of care.

“If driven on a public road, it would have been dangerously defective,” he said.

Sarah McNulty, solicitor for the Murphy family, said the boy had died “in most tragic circumstances, 10 years ago”.

“Farm accidents are a recurring issue,” Ms McNulty said.

“Extreme vigilance is required on farms at all times and it is a non-negotiable duty on farmers to ensure that safety is kept to the forefront of priorities. 

Particular care should be taken in the presence of young people on farms, who should be seen as a precious commodity in the future of farming.

Death by misadventure

A jury of five women and one man returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

They made five recommendations to improve farm safety, which included that a safety statement be issued to all employees as part of their contract.

They also called for adjustments legislation governing the safety of work vehicles.

A review of the categories of dangerous and defective vehicles was also recommended.

Solicitor David Browne, for the Ross family, said it was a tragic day for all concerned.

He said George Ross had also lost a child and it was a trauma no family would ever get over.

An apology from the Ross family was “not hollow in any way”, he said, and they understood the awful gravity of the Murphys’ loss.


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