Farmer killed in cattle feeder may have had a heart attack
An elderly farmer found dead after falling into a cattle feeder may have suffered a heart attack moments beforehand.
John McCooey sustained multiple injuries in the horrific accident at the family farm near Dungannon.
The 76-year-old worked on the farm most of his life before his tragic death last October.
Yesterday an inquest heard Mr McCooey, who was also known as Jackie, previously suffered a heart attack and a further attack could have caused him to fall into the machinery.
Mr McCooey, who was from Killybracken Road, had been feeding hay into a diet feeder machine on October 26 last year when he went missing.
His remains were discovered by a neighbour, Shane Daly.
Mr Daly recalled how he had received a phone call from the deceased's wife asking if he had seen her husband.
Mrs McCooey explained that his tractor was still running but there was no sign of him.
Mr Daly went to the farm with his father, where he found the abandoned tractor and turned it off. A McCooey family member suggested that he should check the cattle feeder.
"I saw a wellington boot," Mr Daly told Dungannon Coroner's Court. "I went up the ladder, then I saw a human leg."
Mr McCooey's son, Michael, said the diet feeder required two loads of feed.
He would normally add hay at night while his father would add a feed mixture in the morning.
However, on the night in question his father added the hay himself.
Mr McCooey explained that the machine was about 10ft in height, and his father usually stood on two bales of hay to feed the mixture in.
He said the machine was always running when his father added feed.
Mr McCooey said his father worked on the farm most of his life and, despite his age, he remained "more than active".
Richard Meredith, an inspector from the Health and Safety Executive, said it was "an unsafe system of work".
He said there was no indication Mr McCooey's accident had been caused by a slip because the two bales he used to access the top of the diet feeder were still intact.
Mr Meredith said he was aware of at least one other death in Northern Ireland involving a diet feeder.
An autopsy conducted by James Lynas, the deputy State Pathologist, concluded Mr McCooey died from "multiple injuries".
The injuries were so severe that he was formally identified from dental records.
Mr Lynas said the deceased previously suffered a heart attack. He said his heart problems "could have precipitated a collapsing incident".
Coroner Jim Kitson said there didn't appear to be any other rational explanation for how the deceased entered the machine.
"A collapse through natural causes caused Mr McCooey to fall into the feeding machine," he said.
Expressing his condolences to the McCooey family, Mr Kitson said it was "a stark and horrific reminder" of the dangers associated with farming.