Sunday 26 January 2020

'An unimaginable tragedy' - Community left 'numb' by death of 18-month-old boy in farming accident

Catherine Devine and Kathy Armstrong

An 18-month-old boy has tragically died in a farm accident. It is understood the little boy, named locally as Bill Bennett, was struck by a front loader being used on the family's farm in the Johnswell area of Co Kilkenny, at about 3pm.

The baby was the fourth child of Elaine and Johnny Bennett, a family who are said to be very popular in the local area. The family are known to be extremely safety conscious and have specific play areas for the children away from the farmyard.

Gardaí and the Health and Safety Authority are investigating the incident which has caused devastation in the community, located a few kilometres east of Kilkenny city.

The victim of the farm accident has two older brothers and a sister, while many members of Mr and Mrs Bennett's extended family also live in the area.

"This is an unimaginable tragedy," local priest Fr Frank Purcell told last night, after spending several hours consoling the family.

"The whole place is devastated. It's unbelievable."

Fr Purcell said the community is praying for the family. "Our hearts and our prayers go out to them.

"It's an unimaginably tragic loss for his parents, siblings and extended family.

"Our hearts and prayers are with them at this time, the entire Johnswell community and beyond are thinking of them and they are in our thoughts and prayers. We hope their many friends and strong faith can help them at this time."

He described the Bennetts as "very popular" in Johnswell.

"The wider Bennett family are well-regarded dairy farmers with deep and long-standing connections in the region.

"We all offer the family our deepest sympathy and support at this time," Fr Purcell said.

"We pray that somehow their good friends and their strong faith will be their strength and support."

Local Fianna Fáil councillor Pat Fitzpatrick appealed for privacy for the family and the tight-knit community of Johnswell. "Everyone is numb with shock," he said. "It's a terrible tragedy for that family and for the whole community. What do you say?"

He said the area is "largely agricultural-based" and that "everyone knows everyone" in such a rural place. "The Bennett family would have lived there for years and years."

Labour party councillor Maurice Shortall said he knew the grandfather of the baby boy.

"There's only one word to describe what happened and that's a tragedy. The town and the entire country are deeply shocked and saddened for this little boy and his family.

"I knew his grandfather... From what I heard [the parents] are lovely people and I hope they get all the help and support they need during this difficult time," he said.

A Garda spokesman said gardaí are investigating the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

Meanwhile, in an incident in Meath, an eight-year-old boy was left in a critical condition after he was struck by a car while crossing the road on the Kells Road at the junction near Navan Fire Station.

The boy was taken by ambulance to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.

Local councillor Wayne Forde said: "This crossing is an absolute death trap."

Irish Independent

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