Poor repairs led to worker's death
PUBLISHED: 08:27 19 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:20 07 July 2010
A conscientious and well-loved farm worker was impaled and crushed to death when "inadequate" repairs to a trailer caused its tow bar to shoot through the tractor's rear window, an inquest heard yesterday.
A conscientious and well-loved farm worker was impaled and crushed to death when “inadequate” repairs to a trailer caused its tow bar to shoot through the tractor's rear window, an inquest heard last week.
Sam Foley, 24, was attempting to tip manure at a farm at Snetterton, when the poor condition trailer jack-knifed and its tow ring broke.
Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and other experts concluded that accident was caused by the tow ring - which would cost less than £100 to replace - snapping in two after it had been welded following a previous fracture.
The type of trailer used was also unsuitable for the load of solid cargo and the fact its tailgate was locked would have put extra strain on the tow ring because the manure could not escape when the trailer tipped.
Father and son Timothy and Jonathan Wyatt claimed to have no knowledge of any repair work and said they would always replace damaged tow rings.
The jury at Norwich heard Mr Foley, of Windsor Road, Newmarket, was employed by a racecourse training ground but had helped Pearn Wyatt & Son for eight years on a casual basis.
The Wyatts fitted the Richard Weston trailer to the New Holland tractor at about 8.20am on July 8, 2007, and, giving evidence, Jonathan Wyatt said Mr Foley locked the tailgate before leaving the yard because he was “very conscientious”.
They paid tribute to Mr Foley's enthusiasm and passion for the job, with Jonathan adding that he and his father commented at that moment that they would love to employ him full-time.
No one witnessed the accident but the Wyatts became concerned and Mr Foley was discovered at 8.50am.
HSE inspector Malcolm Crowther, who attended the scene, said the tractor was satisfactory but the trailer was 26-years-old, in poor condition with signs of damage and corrosion.
“The tow ring had previously fractured on one side and attempt had been made to do a weld repair. The result of the repair was inadequate and failed, resulting in the fatal accident,” he said.
He added that the repair “seriously compromised” the strength of the tow ring so that it had only 45pc of its original strength on one side.
Responding to questions, Jonathan Wyatt said it was possible that the tow ring could have been repaired while on loan within the local farming community.
“It is a complete mystery,” said his father, “when something needs replacing, its replaced and done properly.”
The jury returned a verdict of accidental death following instruction from Greater Norfolk Coroner William Armstrong.
Mr Armstrong added: “It's a matter of grave concern that this tragic death occurred as a result of, principally, the tow ring failing and that some person unknown attempted to repair a previous fracture by welding, which should not have been done.”
He expressed his sympathy to Mr Foley's parents and brother and sister.