Belfast Telegraph

Heart problem 'caused boy's death'

A six-year-old boy who collapsed at a farm in Northern Ireland died from heart failure, the family's minister has said.

Harry Starrett was found in the milking parlour at the family farm outside Armagh city on Tuesday evening.

In the wake of the incident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated whether he was overcome by slurry fumes from a tank adjacent to the building, but no toxic gases were detected. A post-mortem examination is now understood to have ruled out a farming accident.

Retired Church of Ireland minister Canon John McKegney, who has known the family for years and will preside at Harry's funeral, said the examination had found a heart defect.

"Harry's death was from natural causes," he said. "A farming accident has been ruled out. They think it is something to do with his heart."

Canon McKegney said the findings had provided some comfort for Harry's "devastated" parents Mark and Alison. "They are a very safety conscious family and the farm is run very professionally," he added. The retired cleric described Harry as a "little bundle of joy" who loved the farming way of life.

"Harry loved the farm, he absolutely loved the farm, really lived for it," he said. "Even yesterday he didn't want to go home for his meal, he wanted to stay with his grandfather and milk the cows."

It is understood Harry ran ahead of his grandfather Robert as they headed to the empty milking parlour to prepare it for the cows. The boy had gone to pull down the milking clusters in preparation for attaching them to the cows. When Mr Starrett walked into the parlour minutes later his grandson was lying motionless on the ground. An ambulance arrived at the farm on the Ballynahonemore Road within minutes and Harry was taken to Craigavon Area Hospital, but efforts to revive him ultimately proved in vain.

Harry, a pupil at Lisnadill primary school in Armagh, was the oldest of four children. He had one brother Ben and two sisters Rebecca and Phoebe. The tragedy is not the first to strike the Starrett family. Harry's uncle Thomas was killed in a road accident around 15 years ago.

Canon McKegney said: "I buried his uncle Thomas on Christmas Eve, it's tragic because every Christmas they remember Thomas and now when the royal prince's birth is remembered they will remember Harry. You never forget these things but when there's a link to a public event it can actually be more difficult."

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