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Girl's fatal fall after trying to stop hat blowing away

A nine-year-old girl was fatally injured when she hit her head off the road after falling from a tractor-trailer as she tried to stop her hat from blowing away, an inquest has heard.

Sophie Pearson (inset), lived for another five days following the accident on a road near the family farm at Coolbally, Clough, Ballacolla in Laois on July 13 last year but never recovered from severe head injuries suffered in the fall.

Her distraught father David Pearson told Dublin Coroner's Court that he was transferring bales of hay that day and Sophie and her brothers Scott (10), and Ben (7), had begged him to be taken for a "spin" on the trailer.

The bales were being loaded from a field less than half-a-mile down the road.

"It was a lovely day, very sunny and hot. The kids had been pestering me all day to go for a spin on the trailer. I had left them down at the house, but in the end they had my heart broke and I gave in," he said.

"So, when I was going up for the last load, I brought them with me. On the way up, they sat in the trailer, the three of them, Sophie, Ben and Scott. They weren't messing or anything, they were very good, sitting still."

Mr Pearson loaded the last bales round side down. On the return journey Sophie and Ben sat in the trailer on the dip between the bales and they had netting to hold on to. The road was good, with no potholes, Mr Pearson said, and he was driving at 10-12mph.

He was being careful and keeping an eye on Sophie and Ben "the whole time".

"Sophie was wearing a peaked cap. Whatever happened, her cap blew off and she went to grab it. And then she fell off the trailer. I saw her straight away. I stopped and Ben shouted at me 'Daddy, Sophie!'. I got out of the tractor and I saw Sophie, with most of her body on the grass and the bottom part of her legs on the road. She was lying on her side," he said.

She tried to lift herself up twice and then started vomiting. Mr Pearson called the emergency services immediately and Scott ran to a neighbouring house for help.


The children's babysitter Patricia Rea said she went to the scene after Mr Pearson phoned her and she tried to comfort Sophie while he stayed on the phone with the emergency services. Ben was putting water onto his sister's face, the court heard.

An air ambulance took Sophie to Tallaght Hospital where scans showed bleeding on the right side of the brain.

She died on July 18 and the family consented to organ donation.The post-mortem found that she died from severe head injuries.

Sgt Mary Gilmartin said she was satisfied it was a "tragic accident" caused when Sophie tried to grab the hat.

"The surface was good, the conditions were great, there were no skid marks at the scene, no evidence of negligent driving and the vehicles were in excellent condition.

"There would be no other explanation for what happened," she said.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.