Five of the worst tragedies on Yorkshire's farms

As latest figures reveal 39 people have lost their lives on farms across the country in just one year, The Yorkshire Post takes a look at some of the tragedies that hit our county and pays tribute to the victims.

Harry Whitlam was tragically killed when a farm worked reversed a tractor over him at Swithens Farm in Rothwell on August 9, 2013.
Harry Whitlam was tragically killed when a farm worked reversed a tractor over him at Swithens Farm in Rothwell on August 9, 2013.

Harry Sowerby

Four-year-old Harry Sowerby was crushed to death under a trailer loaded with breeze blocks being towed by his doting father in July 2010.

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Harry had jumped out of his father Richard Sowerby's Land Rover Discovery to open the heavy metal gate and stop it swinging into the side of the vehicle as it pulled into the yard of West End Farm, near Askrigg, in Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales.

Latest figures have revealed 39 people have lost their lives on farms across the country in just one year

As Mr Sowerby climbed out to start unloading, his mother-in-law Jolene Easton came running up to say something was wrong with the little boy.

Mr Sowerby, who had been delivering the concrete block to his mother-in-law’s farm, found the boy lying face down in a pool of blood by the gate.

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Police accident investigator Tc Stephen Kirkbright believed Harry had let the gate go while still hanging on it. It had then hit the trailer and the boy had been hurled beneath the trailer wheels, which caused the fatal injuries.

The hearing was told that with the Land Rover’s diesel engine running and the sound of the trailer the father would have not even heard the strike of the gate.

Harry, who lived on his parents’ farm in Thwaite Bridge, near Hawes, in Wensleydale, was flown by air ambulance to Harrogate District Hospital the same afternoon of the accident last July but died from multiple injuries.

Harry Whitlam

Eleven-year-old Harry Whitlam was killed when a farm worked reversed a tractor over him at Swithens Farm in Rothwell on August 9, 2013.

Gary Green, 52, was jailed for 16 months in December 2016, after he was more than twice the drink drive limit at the time of the incident.

Leeds Crown Court heard how Green, of Robin Hood, Wakefield, had drunk around 13 pints of beer the night before he caused the death of Harry,

He often accompanied her to work and was well known and popular and enjoyed spending time with the farm hands.

The collision happened after the youngster left the public area of the farm and walking onto the working part where Green was reversing the tractor in a yard.

Harry was taken to hospital but died from his injuries later that day.

Alexander Forman and Richard Pooley

Alexander Forman, 32, who ran the farm with his parents, and Richard Pooley, 36, an employee, had entered the pit, which was a known hazard area and were overcome by the fumes.

It was not established why the pair had entered the slurry pit, situated next to a pig pen. However, a stockman on the farm at the time who discovered the men's bodies, said he had earlier "partly cleared" a blocked pipe connecting a pig pen to the pit.

An inquest into their deaths in May last year returned a conclusion of accidental death.

Brian Swales

Veteran dairy farmer Brian Swales, 67, was killed by his own cattle as he tended to them at a farm in Hutton Rudby, near Stokesly, North Yorkshire in July 2017.

Mr Swales had gone to check on his 17 Friesian heifers and one bull after one was described as "acting lame".

What exactly happened to Mr Swales is still unknown. Despite reports claiming he had been trampled by the bull, a coroner at an inquest into his death said it was impossible to tell what had happened.

North Yorkshire Coroner's Court heard he suffered broken ribs and lacerations to his lungs resembling crush injuries.

His wife Pauline said she believed he may have slipped in the uneven field and was unable to get back up as he was recovering from a hip operation.

She said that is when she thought the "experienced stockman" may have been trampled on at the farm.

After the inquest, his daughter Julie Swales said: "He was a very kind and generous man and touched so many people's lives.

"Not knowing what happened to dad in such a freak accident is hard to take."

John Harvey

Self-employed electrician John Harvey suffered fatal injuries while carrying out a "dangerous activity" at a farm near Pontefract, where he had worked for four decades.

Mr Harvey, 69, was stood in an empty wooden potato box which was being lowered by a forklift truck at Church Farm in Darrington when the box slipped and he fell around 6ft to the ground, a jury at Wakefield Coroner's Court heard.

The inquest was told the potato box, which the jury heard weighed more than 100 kilos, then struck Mr Harvey on the head during the incident at the pig and arable farm on Philips Lane on October 20 2017.

The jury was told Mr Harvey had decided to carry out a non-urgent repair of the winch motor of a ventilation shutter in the roof space of a potato store at the farm.

He stood in a 6ft long and 4ft wide potato box placed on the tines of a forklift truck and asked a farm worker to operate the truck to lift him up around 15ft to where he needed to work.

The potato box was not secured to the forklift truck's tines and slipped while he was being lowered to the ground by a second farm worker, the jury inquest heard.

The farm had a piece of equipment called a man riding cage, which was designed for working at heights and could be safely attached to a forklift truck.

Mr Harvey had previously used the man riding cage to work at heights at the farm and the jury was told it was not known why he had decided to use the potato box on that occasion.