'I ran out of the way of the tractor and tank and I shouted at Michael to move out of the way'
A second man could have lost his life in a farm-yard crush accident that claimed the life of father of one and farmer Michael McGrath last year.
At an inquest at the Clare coroner’s court into the death of the 50-year-old farmer at Ballina, Labasheeda in June of last year, in a deposition, agricultural worker, Sean McInerney told of his narrow escape in the fatal accident.
Mr McGrath’s death was one of two work accident fatalities heard at the court where a jury also returned an accidental death verdict into the death of father of 10, Pat O’Connor who died after the cab from his digger that he was working on fell on him in May of this year.
In the McGrath inquest, Mr McInerney said that he was employed by Sean McSweeney agricultural and plant hire contractor from Lissycasey to assist with Mr McGrath to spread slurry on his lands on June 27th 2017.
In his deposition, Mr McInerney said that at around 7.10pm he was talking to Mr McGrath and the two were standing behind the slurry tank as his tractor and tank was was filling up with slurry.
Mr McInerney said that as his tank was reloading with slurry he ran out of the way of his tractor and tank as it rolled down a hill.
In the deposition, Mr McInerney told the inquest: “I ran out of the way of the tractor and tank and I shouted at Michael to move out of the way.”
He said: “The tank and the tractor came back quickly - Michael didn’t get out of the way in time and he got trapped between the slurry tank and the wall of the shed which he was standing in front of.”
Mr McInerney - who was not present at the inquest - said in the deposition that he got into the tractor to drive it forward and in doing so, Mr McGrath fell into the underground slurry pit.
Mr McInerney said that he reached down into the slurry pit and pulled Mr McGrath upwards by the jumper and he said that he knew he was dead.
Mr McInerney said: “I am certain that the tractor was in 'park' before I got out of it. There was a hill going downwards so if I didn’t put the tractor in 'park', it would have went back once I took my foot off the brake pedal."
The emergency services were called and Mr McGrath’s body was taken from the underground slurry tank at 8.25pm.
Garda Paul Madden said that Mr McGrath had significant head injuries and a large wound to his stomach.
Garda Madden said that the fire service had to wash down Mr McGrath’s body as it was covered in slurry.
Garda Madden said that the hill that the tractor and tank rolled down was 'sharp'.
The pathologist who carried out the post mortem told the inquest that Mr McGrath would have been dead before his body fell into the slurry.
The post mortem found that the cause of death was severe head, neck and vertebrae injury secondary to massive blunt force trauma.
Clare Public Service Vehicle (PSV) Inspector, Garda Brendan Condon said that Gardai recreated the scene to see what caused the accident.
Garda Condon said that he found that the tractor was suffering from a defective hand-brake. He said: “However, because the tractor was fitted with a secondary system, its transmission brake and after substantial tests, no defects were found in this second system.”
He said that the transmission brake was capable of performing the same function as the hand-brake. He said: “Following tests it is difficult to determine how a driver could leave the tractor cab without the transmission brake applied. The slope would have caused the tractor to roll backwards before he started filling the tank.”