Farm Ireland

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Warning of hidden danger on farms as quad accident kills pensioner

Father whose son drowned highlights unseen perils

Left: Padraig Higgins with his wife Joan. Right: their son James, who tragically died in a farm accident.
Left: Padraig Higgins with his wife Joan. Right: their son James, who tragically died in a farm accident.
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A farmer who lost his six-year-old son in a drowning tragedy has warned landowners that farms hold invisible dangers, particularly for children.

Padraig Higgins was speaking as Cork County Council launched a special farm safety campaign to highlight dangers for children and to try to reduce the spiralling number of lives being lost on Irish farms.

Tragically, the safety appeal was issued as yet another man died in an Irish farm accident.

The victim, named locally as Tom Hales (83), died when the quad bike he was operating on land in Ballineen in west Cork apparently overturned and crushed him.

Mr Hales suffered critical injuries in the accident on Tuesday morning and died despite desperate efforts to stabilise his condition. The pensioner was out inspecting his land when the tragedy occurred.

He was the 18th person to die in a farm accident in Ireland this year. Three deaths have occurred over the past month. Last year, four children died in farm accidents.

Mr Higgins said the death of a child was very traumatic and admitted his family was still haunted by the 2008 death of his youngest son James.

The little boy fell into a soak pit and drowned as he was walking from his family home in Offaly to his grandfather's house nearby to show off his new pair of glasses.

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"There was a hole dug in the garden for a soak pit and there was some water in it and we saw the little green knitted cap that he would have been wearing normally and it was floating around on the top of it," Mr Higgins said.

"It is an awful thing to lose any member of your family like that - but to lose a child, because they are so innocent and they don't understand the dangers on the farm, is really difficult. The knock-on effect is that when we have family events or that kind of thing, we know there is one missing.

"He was six when he died and Santa had only been a couple of weeks before that. Santa has not come since then.

"Christmas can be a very lonely time because we know that James should still be with us. You need to see the dangers on a farm. It is the same with all farmers. But you don't see the dangers - you are so used to something sticking out you just walk around it.

"With new eyes coming onto the farm and pointing out the dangers - it actually costs very little money to sort these things out."

Mr Higgins is now a campaigner with the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) to promote farm safety.

Mayor of Co Cork, Councillor Seamus McGrath, said that the onus was on everyone to help raise the issue of safety on farms.

"Safety not just on farms but in rural settings is vitally important," he said.

"People need to be conscious of the dangers associated with machinery, dealing with animals and things like slurry pits.

"If you start by educating children about the dangers on farms, hopefully that is where you start in terms of reducing the tragic statistics."

Cork County Council safety officer Caroline Casey said safety lessons learned at a young age stayed with people for life.

"We need to instil the skills of safety evaluation at an early age. As children get older, hopefully they can risk assess for various situations they come across," she said.

Irish Independent