View Full Version : Inquiry hears of fatal farm accident

23-Aug-12, 16:16
Farmer was dragged by runaway cow after calving task went wrong sheriff at Wick told

A CAITHNESS farmer died after a routine calving task went tragically wrong, an inquiry into his death heard today.
An investigation into the tragedy concluded that the cow Sandy Banks was roped to, had bolted from the pen in which he was working and dragged him round a field on his farm at Sour, near Halkirk, causing him multiple injuries from which he died.
A health and safety inspector maintained that such calving tasks should really involve two people.
Neighbouring farmer, John Buchanan, who sometimes assisted Mr Banks on occasions, told how he was in Thurso when he got a phone call from the 64-year-old’s wife Ella, in the afternoon of June 13, last year.
He told the inquiry at Wick Sheriff Court yesterday: “She was crying and said that Sandy had been hurt and to come quick.” She had gone to look for him after he failed to return to their home at Larlyn, in Calder Road, Halkirk, for lunch.
Mr Buchanan said he found the father-of-two, lying on his back in the field, his face bleeding and badly bruised. He checked for any sign of life but found none. The lower garments of his body were missing and were scattered round the field. A rope around the Mr Banks’ waist was attached to the cow.
Asked for his view of how the accident might have occurred, Mr Buchanan (39) said that he believed that Mr Banks had, after calving the cow, had put a halter over the cow’s head to keep the animal stationery and tied the other end to his waist, leaving his hands free to push the calf towards its mother to suckle, which was standard procedure.
Mr Buchanan, who telephoned the police, said that everything pointed to the animal having bolted from the pen and dragged Mr Banks round the field.
Asked by senior fiscal depute, David Barclay about who would have won in the tussle between man and beast, Mr Buchannan replied: “The cow...it’s a powerful animal, weighing something like 700 kilos.”
Police Constable Mark Hillier said that Mrs Banks was “very upset” when he arrived at Sour Farm.
In a statement he took from her – she was not called to give evidence, under the circumstances – she stated that when her husband, of 42 years, had not appeared for lunch, she assumed he had gone to check on the cows and found him in the field at the farm. Constable Hillier said that the family were still distressed and had still not come to terms with their loss.
Written evidence from Consultant Pathologist Dr Mark Ashton, who carried out a post mortem on Mr Banks, concluded that he has sustained multiple injuries to his head, chest and spine in keeping with him having been dragged along the ground, possibly impacting with obstacles such as a fence post or a stone wall.
Ann Poyner, a Health and Safety Inspectorate, inspector, with special knowledge of agricultural accidents, confirmed that Mr Banks would have tied himself to the cow, in order to free both his hands to deal with the umbilical chord and spray the calf against infection, and then present it to suckle on its mother. It had been established that Mr Banks had handled the calf prior to the accident.
The inspector said that the Health and Safety Inspectorate would always recommend that two people carried out such tasks, in case anything suddenly went wrong, but added: “In the real world this does not always happen.”
Ms Poyner said farmers were under no statutory obligation to do so and added: “It is just a question of safety and good practice but there are no rules saying you must.” She said that although there were strangers at the farm during the investigation into the accident, they did not unsettle the herd and it was clear that the cows were used to being handled by Mr Banks and he had hitherto had no difficulty with them.
She agreed with Mr Buchannan that if a half ton animal decided to ‘go’, then it was “always going to win the argument”.
Asked for her view on best practice, Ms Poyner said that a person should never be attached to an animal.
She said: “It is not something that would ever be a safe method. If you wanted to keep a cow stationery, you would attach it to something solid like a cow catcher. The real issue here is that the farmer was roped to the animal.”
Ms Poyner added: “Mr Banks has done something on the spur of the moment but we are all human and make errors. Agriculture by its very nature is a high risk industry. This is a classic case of someone doing something on a particular day and the consequences have been fatal and tragic.”
Sheriff Andrew Berry will give his written determination in due course.