Belfast Telegraph

She loved her animals: nephew’s tribute at inquest into death of cattle breeder crushed by cow

Thelma Gorman
Thelma Gorman
Thelma was a successful exhibitor at agricultural shows
Thelma Gorman's nephew Gareth Gibson
Thelma Gorman's funeral in Armagh last September
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The nephew of a Co Armagh cattle breeder killed by a cow paid tribute to a "special lady" after her inquest yesterday.

Thelma Gorman was 67 when she died on a farm last September.

She was trampled by an animal she was leading into a pen to be seen by an inspector.

Gareth Gibson, who also works as a cattle farmer, said his aunt's passing had been a "big loss" to the family.

The inquest in Armagh yesterday concluded that she died from chest injuries after losing control of the cow.

Her husband Peter was also knocked to the ground and injured when he arrived to take the animal away.

Coroner Paddy McGurgan said Mrs Gorman was a highly respected and experienced cattle breeder who was well able to handle the animals.

Despite this, he said her method of leading the large by a harness (being haltered) into a pen to be placed in a crush - metal gates used to keep cows still for inspection - was "an unsafe practice" that left her vulnerable.

He also asked why an animal inspector from the Department of Agriculture present at the time had not challenged Mrs Gorman's method, adding that the official may have shown misplaced deference to her experience with cattle.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Gibson urged other farmers to stay vigilant around livestock and review their handling facilities.

"My auntie was a highly esteemed person in the farming industry and loved her animals," he said.

"She was aware of the risks and what could happen, unfortunately there can still be times when you lose control.

"That's why I think farmers need to be extra vigilant on farms every day and not to drop their guard.

"I think the findings do help the family to find out exactly what happened. It also sends out an important message to farmers dealing with animals and machinery.

"They're very busy people with a lot of decisions to make in a very short period sometimes, that can lead to difficult and even dangerous situations."

He said the family would remember her for her loving nature towards her husband, her nieces and nephews, her livestock and during her nursing career. "We as a family will remember her for the way she cared for others, she thought of other people constantly," he said.

"To us it's a big, big loss. She was such a special lady in our lives and we'll miss her, but some day we'll see her again."

On the day of the incident Mrs Gorman's cows were inspected by vet Colin Calvert for tuberculosis. He noted that the cow in question was showing aggressive tendencies and warned Mrs Gorman to be careful.

On leaving he warned animal inspector Ruth Strain, who had just arrived, that some of the animals were acting "flighty", which she took as a warning to be on her guard. Two cows were led into the crush for inspection for brucellosis with no problems.

For the third cow, Mrs Gorman told the inspector to hide behind a wall as the animal had just calved and may react badly to a stranger.

After waiting with no word, Ms Strain became concerned something was wrong and looked round the wall to see Mrs Gorman being dragged on her side as she held on to the harness.

It is believed that Mrs Gorman had been about to lead the cow into the crush when it moved suddenly to try and get towards its calf.

Ms Strain raised the alarm and Mr Gorman was able to move the cow away from his wife, being injured in the process.

Although able to talk for a while, Mrs Gorman suffered a collapsed lung and died while she was receiving treatment at the scene.

An Assistant State Pathologist told the court her injuries were so severe that even with the best medical treatment in the world it was highly unlikely she could have survived.

Mr McGurgan called for experienced farmers not to become complacent and to take the opportunity to reassess their practices.

Belfast Telegraph


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