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Farm machinery should be MOT tested, says coroner

A coroner has said farm machinery in Northern Ireland should be MOT tested.

Eugene (Gene) Murphy, an elderly retired farmer from Co Armagh, was crushed under the wheel of his heavily-loaded tractor after problems with the handbrake and gear box allowed it to roll forward last summer, an inquest found.

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) said a number of tragedies involving faulty tractor brakes had occurred in recent years.

Coroner Paddy McGurgan said: "It is disappointing to note that the EU in their wisdom, the powers that be, have rejected the need for an MOT-type system involving farming machinery.

"I as coroner believe that could only have been a good thing."

The HSENI identified a number of defects with the tractor, which had no engine braking from the gears. The handbrake was also faulty.

Mr Murphy, 70, had hitched a trailer and loaded it with eight tonnes of soil at a laneway on a slight slope on Lough Road in Silverbridge in August 25 last year.

The coroner found that it was likely that after filling the trailer the tractor began to move forward and the victim tried to get into the cab to rescue the machine and fell in front of the wheel.

"Death would have been rapid."

The father of three sons and a daughter was crushed with severe injuries despite the efforts of a relative and his nurse daughter who performed CPR.

Malcolm Downey, who investigated the accident for the HSENI, said the organisation was planning a media campaign to highlight the danger of defective tractor brakes.

There is no requirement for MOTs for the machines.

The coroner's court was told most farmers were practical but tractors were becoming more complicated and maintenance was a job for a specialist.

Mr McGurgan said: "There was a sequence of very unfortunate events coming together.

"The tractor cooling, the load, the handbrake slipping and the fault in the gearbox."

He said Mr Murphy, who was married for around 40 years, was a very accomplished person.

"But in that comfort comes complacency and we have to be very careful when we are on machinery that we are not too complacent and too comfortable because tragedies like Mr Murphy's can and do happen as I as coroner can only testify to."

Mr Murphy was being treated for prostate cancer and when he was not feeling well used a stick to get around, his daughter Teresa McShane said.

The steps to the tractor were buckled and there was no rail to get into or out of the machine, Mr Downey said.

However the condition of the steps were not found to be central to the accident.

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