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Coroner issues farm safety plea at inquest into toddler's death

October 13th, 2016 10:32 AM

By Southern Star Team

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THE Cork city coroner, Philip Comyn, has described as a ‘terrible tragedy’ the death of a toddler on a farm in West Cork.

Ben Regan was killed after an accident on a Schull farm last year, just six days before his second birthday.

At the inquest, a plea was issued for extreme vigilance on Irish farms after the verdict of accidental death was returned.

The inquest heard the boy was pronounced dead at CUH, after a heavy horse box divider fell onto him earlier that day.

The little boy was with his grandmother, Emily Nolan, on May 23rd 2015 and the duo were going to feed and then collect eggs from hens.

Ben lived with his mother and father, Roy and Debbie Regan, and his younger brother, Eddie, on a property in Derryleary which operated as Schull Equestrian Centre.

Adjacent to the centre was a 26-acre farm owned by Ben’s grandparents where cattle, horses and hens were kept.

On May 23, Ben went with his mother and little brother to visit his grandmother, Emily.

As it was a fine day, Debbie decided to stroll back to her home with her younger son in a buggy.

Ben went with his grandmother, Emily, to check her hens.

His grandmother sobbed as she said the hen house door was stiff so she ‘gave it a tug’ to open it. Ben was standing beside her.

However, a heavy steel horse box divider was lying against the wall and it somehow toppled over.

Ben was struck and suffered catastrophic head injuries.

‘(It) came crashing down on top of Ben. I caught him in my arms and ran to the house. I called to Roy and said a heavy door had fallen on Ben and to call 999.’ 

Members of the family gathered to help and two local doctors raced to the scene.

The toddler was already unconscious. 

A decision was made to air-lift him to Cork University Hospital (CUH) with the Shannon-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter, which landed in a field opposite the family homes.

Sadly, Ben was pronounced dead shortly after admission.

Assistant state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said the toddler would have been immediately rendered unconscious from his injuries.

A full Health & Safety Authority (HSA) inspection was carried out on the farm and a file was submitted to the DPP.

HSA inspector David Barry said there was no evidence that anyone was in any way negligent and the DPP directed that no further action be taken.

Ben’s father, Roy, was not allowed pursue a number of health and safety questions he raised, as Mr Comyn said the inquest was not the appropriate forum.

The jury returned a unanimous verdict of accidental death. However, Ben’s father asked the coroner to remove the phrase ‘horse box divider’ from his verdict and the phrase ‘scrap metal’ be used instead. 

Mr Comyn said this was not possible.

Mr Comyn extended his sympathies to the family and their extended relatives for what he described as a ‘terrible tragedy’.

‘It is very difficult in circumstances like these. It is a tragedy to see someone so young to die in these circumstances.’

‘It reinforces the need for extreme vigilance on farms at all times,’ he said.

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