Sunday 22 October 2017

Gravedigger sues after slipping on ice at funeral but denies rumour he fell into grave

Nicky O Brien of Windmill Heights, Wexford, pictured leaving the Four Courts
Nicky O Brien of Windmill Heights, Wexford, pictured leaving the Four Courts

Tim Healy

A GRAVEDIGGER slipped on ice at a funeral fracturing his ankle, it has been claimed in the High Court.

Nicky O’Brien said he was walking away after the grave of an elderly woman had been covered, to be filled in later, at St Ibar’s cemetery near Wexford town, when  his foot went and he fell.

Mr O'Brien (56),Windmill Heights, Wexford, has sued his employer at the time, Wexford Borough Council, as a result of the accident on January 8, 2009.  The council has denied his claim of negligence.

“I felt a crack in my foot. The path was slippy . It should have been salted and it wasn’t,” he told the court.

He said there was later a rumour that he had fallen in a grave, but he said he fell on the path.

Mr O'Brien, who later had to have reconstruction surgery on his right ankle, said he was out of work for about eight months.

Opening the case, his counsel Richard Kean said the conditions were treacherous at the time, with the ground frozen due to frost and ice that day.

The graveyard is very exposed and counsel said it was their case  the council had not provided grit and salt which could have been spread on the paths at the cemetery.

In the action, it is claimed the council permitted the footpath to be and remain in a dangerous and unsafe condition  and allegedly failed to warn him of the hazardous nature of the path.

He further claimed that, as a result of the accident, he has been unable to participate fully in normal sporting and social activities.

The council contends Mr O'Brien failed to take any care for his own safety.

It says he failed to exercise his common sense about the task in hand and allegedly failed to have any or any adequate regard to the weather conditions prevailing at the time.

James Flood, who was the caretaker in charge at the time of the accident, told the court he had previously  asked for grit for a New Year's Eve funeral and he did not get it.

On that occasion, he said that mourners had to get out and push the hearse, he said.

The  case continues before Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

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