Dad's safety plea a year after son's skull was fractured on farm

Conor McMullan became the first NI casualty to be attended by the air ambulance in July last year.
Conor McMullan became the first NI casualty to be attended by the air ambulance in July last year.

Gillian Halliday

A Co Down man has relived the horrifying moment his young son suffered a serious head injury after becoming trapped against a wall in a farming accident involving a tractor.

Conor McMullan sustained a fractured skill in the accident at his uncle's farm in Castlewellan last July.

He had been attempting to unhook a piece of equipment from the back of a tractor when it reversed, pinning him against a wall.

Such was the severity of Conor's injury he was the first casualty to be taken to hospital in the Air Ambulance, which was tasked to the scene during a test flight just days before it was due to officially launch.

The schoolboy, aged 11, was flown to Belfast in just eight minutes where he was initially taken to Musgrave Park Hospital before later being transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

Speaking yesterday ahead of next week's first anniversary of the accident, dad John said what happened to his son was "every parent's worst nightmare", but it was one that thankfully had a happy outcome.

"Conor's great now. He's back playing football and has started high school. He's back doing farming," he explained.

The father-of-four was speaking out to support the Farm Safety Week campaign, which launched this week as it was revealed that 11 children have been killed on farms across Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2017.

"It's a shocking figure," added Mr McMullan, who urged other farming families to exercise caution in light of what happened to his boy.

"Stop and think, and think of the possibilities. It's changed how I look at things," he said.

"Speak to your children and think out what the risks are and what you're doing.

"Conor knows how lucky he is. I would urge parents to talk openly about the risks, which also makes us as parents look at what we're also doing on the farm. Not all kids have been as lucky as Conor."

His plea follows the recent death of Fermanagh teenager Neil Graham, who was killed in an accident involving a tractor in May in one of two farm-related fatalities that occurred on farms here between April and mid-July this year.

In all, a total of seven people lost their lives in farming accidents during 2017/18, an increase of two compared to the previous year.

Mr McMullan said the agricultural industry as a whole needed more farm safety awareness and he praised the message behind this year's campaign.

"The Farm Safety Week is a great message.

"Stories like ours and others like us do reinforce the safety message. The whole industry needs more awareness overall and campaigns like this do help," Mr McMullan added.

Meanwhile, The Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) said that although there had been a dramatic reduction in the number of children killed on farms since its 'Be Aware Kids' initiative was launched in 2004, the figure remained too high.

Subsequently, HSENI principal inspector Malcolm Downey has directly appealed to parents to make child safety on the farm a priority, particularly during the summer.

"On farms, children are naturally curious, but keeping our children safe on those farms is one of the things that everyone agrees is essential," he said.

"It is really important that our children are educated about safety on the farm so that they are aware of the potential dangers and learn how to avoid them.

"Please talk about safety as a family."

Online Editors