FARMERS and farm organisations must be more aware of the dangers when using quad bikes, a coroner warned at an inquest in Bantry.
Coroner Frank O’Connell issued the warning at the inquest into the death of Michael Cronin (70) who lived at Ard Mhuire, Church Road in Bantry, after his body was discovered trapped under his quad bike at his farm at Coomanore, on June 3rd 2020.
The inquest heard that Mr Cronin was tending his sheep when a neighbour, Jonathan Crowley, an agricultural contractor, called to him at around 10pm on the evening of June 2rd.
In his statement, which was read at the inquest, Mr Crowley said that he had offered to help Michael Cronin with his sheep but he said he was ‘grand’, they discussed the weather and silage and Mr Crowley said that Michael Cronin was in ‘mighty form’.
Glenn Alexander, who lives next door to Mr Cronin’s land, gave evidence that he had heard a vehicle being driven away at around 10pm on June 2nd. He presumed it was Mr Cronin but it seemed that this was Jonathan Crowley.
The next morning, June 3rd, Patrick O’Brien, Mr Cronin’s neighbour and friend, called to the farm as arranged the day before when he was helping Michael Cronin shearing sheep.
In his statement to gardaí, Patrick O’Brien said he couldn’t find Mr Cronin and walked over through the fields where Mr Cronin’s sheep were located. ‘On the way over I saw a red yoke in the ditch,’ Mr O’Brien said.
However, on his return he checked more closely and saw Michael under what he called ‘the guard’ or the quad bike.
Investigating garda Muiris Ó Conchubaire arrived at the scene at 11.50am, where he met Mr Cronin’s nephew.
Garda Ó Conchubaire told the inquest that the area was sloped and rough and that Mr Cronin’s arm was trapped under the quad bike near fencing posts and wire.
Mr Cronin would have needed assistance to have removed the vehicle, Garda Ó Conchubaire said. Gardaí notified the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) who arrived and examined the scene.
During this inspection it was discovered that the tyre pressure of the four wheels on the quad bike were twice what they should have been for driving off-road.
‘That would have a critical effect when the quad is proceeding on rough terrain over projections up through the ground, such as stones or rocks,’ coroner Frank O’Connell said.
‘Even at slow speed it can have dangerous and, as in this case, fatal consequences.’
He also added that the quad bike had been in four-wheel-drive mode and in first gear, indicating Michael Cronin had been driving carefully and yet the quad still overturned.
In his verdict, Mr O’Connell said that cause of death was blunt force trauma with the machine compressing Michael Cronin’s chest, so he was unable to breathe. The coroner also noted mechanical asphyxiation in delivering a verdict of accidental death.
‘This is the third case I have dealt with in the past few years of farmers being fatally injured from a quad bike overturning,’ Mr O’Connell said.
He added that quad bikes are ‘handy’ but also represented a risk and that he hoped farming organisations would take up the issue on behalf of the health and safety of their members.