Belfast Telegraph

Boy (10) killed after he was flung from runaway tractor as farmer dad watched in horror

By Chris Kilpatrick

A young farmer has told how he desperately tried to control a tractor as it careered down a hill killing his 10-year-old brother.

Aaron Macaulay sustained fatal injuries last July when he was thrown from the cab of the machine as it rolled down a field after the engine stalled, rendering the steering and brakes useless.

Their father, who was working in a tractor nearby, watched in horror as the tragedy unfolded.

Maurice Macaulay told an inquest into the child's death his son adored farming.

"Aaron was my son and I love him dearly," he added, fighting back tears.

"I miss him every day."

During the hearing in Newry, farmers across Northern Ireland were urged not to allow children under the age of 13 to travel as passengers in agricultural vehicles.

Aaron, his brother and their father had been spreading manure in a field on July 30 when the accident happened on the family farm at Rathfriland Road, Ballyward, Castlewellan.

Maurice's two sons had been in the cab of a tractor when the engine stalled without warning and the vehicle began to roll down the slope.

His 20-year-old son Matthew told how he tried to turn the steering and slam the brakes to stop it or at least slow it down. But as both were powered by hydraulics, they did not respond without power.

"It just died," Matthew Macaulay's statement, which was read out during the hearing, said. "There was nothing I could do to stop it."

He said he tried to turn the wheel in the hope that would help but nothing happened. "I had no choice," he said.

"I was trying to make the best out of bad situation."

Matthew said he and Aaron were being "thrown about the cab" and he thought they would hit some bushes.

Instead they collided with a large rock, halting them immediately and causing young Aaron to be thrown from the cab.

Maurice said he knew his son was dead when he saw him lying motionless.

Aaron did not regain consciousness and despite intensive treatment at the scene and in hospital he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Paramedics arrived at the farm just over 10 minutes after the accident was reported.

A police helicopter arrived later and took the child to Craigavon Area Hospital.

Matthew confirmed that the cab of the vehicle had only one seat and Aaron had been perched on an arm-rest.

David Lowe, a health and safety inspector, said the machine involved in the accident had been well-maintained.

Its tank had been half-full with fuel at the time.

When examined, there was no obvious reason for the machine's engine to cut out.

Mr Lowe said the field being worked on had inclines of up to 20 degrees in some places, but the steepest parts had gradients of up to 40 degrees.

The vehicle the brothers were in travelled around 110 metres down the slope, before dropping a distance of two metres into the rock, the hearing was told.

Mr Lowe said the Health and Safety Executive was working to publicise the law which forbids those under 13 travelling in farm vehicles.

He said it was regrettable that it was common practice across Northern Ireland for that legislation to be breached.

Mr Kitson said while the carrying of children in farm machinery "should be discouraged, the realities of life are that it is a common event".

After the inquest, a spokesman said: "The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland would like to offer our deepest sympathy to Aaron's family at this most difficult time.

"Their tragic loss underlines that farms can be dangerous places to work and live on, particularly for children.

"No one wants to see accidents like this happen and we would remind farmers that any child under the age of 13 is not permitted to be a passenger in agricultural work vehicles.

"In addition, HSENI strongly advises that anyone aged 13 or over should only be carried as a passenger if there is proper seating with seatbelts or restraints fitted."

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