Belfast Telegraph

Thomas Magee was one of 11 children to die on Northern Ireland farms since 2000... now new campaign aims to prevent more tragedies like his

By Michelle Weir

A campaign has been launched to prevent more accidents involving children on farms like the loss of a "farming mad" little boy in Co Fermanagh last year.

Eleven children have lost their lives in agricultural accidents here since 2000, according to the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI).

The tragic victims include four-year-old Thomas Magee from Maguiresbridge, who passed away after an accident involving a digger in April last year.

His nine-year-old sister Emily was honoured for her fundraising efforts in his memory at the Sunday Life Spirit of NI Awards.

Victor Warrington, a member of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and a family friend, said Thomas has been "just farming mad".

"He loved everything about it, from cattle to machinery," he said.

"It was obviously going to be very difficult to keep him away from everything.

"The accident was just a terrible tragedy. It was absolutely devastating.

"I have seen a lot of sad circumstances but that was one that really touched people.

"We live in a tight-knit rural community, so everybody has really pulled together.

"It has been difficult for the family. His older sister has raised a huge amount of money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in his memory."

Thomas's mum Jackie praised the support of the local community after a coffee morning raised £8,000.

Meanwhile, Co Antrim man Wallace Gregg, a former president of the Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster (YFCU), warned that children under the age of 13 should not be in a tractor.

Wallace, whose son James suffered a double skull fracture when he fell out of a tractor in 2015, said: "An accident can happen in the blink of an eye. You have to be ultra cautious."

Mr Gregg said that his son had "drifted in and out of consciousness" after falling from the moving vehicle and had to be put into an induced coma in hospital to assist his recovery.

He added that he is thankful that his son "made a remarkable recovery" and had been given the "all-clear".

Children under the age of 13 are not permitted to be passengers in agricultural work vehicles, although it is common practice across Northern Ireland.

The HSENI also 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.

Ulster Farmers' Union president Ivor Ferguson said: "Children are naturally curious. Farms can be tempting places for them to play and often children do not understand the dangers a farm can present.

"It can be very difficult to both supervise children and work on the farm. Parents should think about preventative measures they can put in place to help protect children from the dangers.

"These measures include providing children with a securely fenced-off play area, ensuring unattended vehicles are kept locked, and discouraging children from using bales of any description for playing."

YFCU president James Speers said: "Child Safety on Farms Week highlights the importance of educating farming families about dangers on the farm."

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