Enniskillen: Tractor crush death ‘shouldn’t have happened’

The parents of a 17-year-old boy who was crushed by a tractor want stricter penalties for those who tamper with the safety of heavy machinery.

Engineering student Neil Graham was killed while on work placement in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, in 2018.

The Health and Safety Executive found that a safety feature of the tractor he was working on was disabled before it was brought in for repair.

Two men and a business have been fined a total of £50,000 over the incident.

Neil’s mother Joy Graham said “no amount of money would ever resolve” her grief over her son.

“Neil would be here today if people had done their job properly,” she told BBC News NI.

“We wouldn’t wish this on anyone because it was needless what happened and it shouldn’t have happened.”

‘Loved working with his dad’

Mrs Graham described her son as a “kind, loving and gentle giant” who had a lot of friends and got on well with his siblings.

“He didn’t particularly enjoy the academic side of school,” she said.

“But when he realised that he was really good at fixing things he found this course called land-based engineering that he really wanted to do so he could fix machinery, farm machinery in particular, because he loved working on the farm with his dad.”

The 17-year-old was a student at the South West College in Omagh and had been working at Gordon Brown Agricultural Engineering, completing a placement.

Joy and Eddie Graham

Neil’s parents Joy and Eddie want stricter penalties for those who tamper with tractor safety

The owner of the business Gordon Brown had been working with Neil on repairs to a tractor owned by C and V Loane Ltd.

While working underneath the tractor to try to find an oil leak, the teenager was fatally crushed by the forward movement of the back right wheel after Brown started the vehicle.

‘Something has to be done’

The Health and Safety Executive investigation found that a safety feature to prevent the vehicle being started while in-gear had been bypassed some time prior to it being taken in for repair.

Brown later said he was not aware of the modification and would not have allowed Neil to work on it had he known.

An inspection pit was available in the workshop, from where the tractor could have been examined safely from below, but it was not used at the time.

This week, Belfast Crown Court heard that while Jamie Loane of C and V Loane Ltd claimed he was not aware of the alteration to the safety mechanism, as the main user he was “under duty to make himself aware” of any alternations and pass that information on to anyone who would be affected by it.

Mrs Graham said there were lessons to be learnt from the accident.

“Something has to be done, some law has to come in to have a ruling on tractors that they have to be checked,” she said.

“Safety features are there for a reason – to protect people – and to take these off, this is what has happened.”

Neil’s father Eddie Graham said the family were still coming to terms with their loss.

“He loved family gatherings – we have missed out on all of that,” he said.

“We haven’t only lost our youngest son, we’ve lost his future as well.”

Each of the defendants pleaded guilty to health and safety offences.

Gordon Brown, 63, of Boho Road in Enniskillen, was fined £20,000.

Jamie Loane, 27, from Derrybrick Road in Kesh, was fined £10,000.

His family farming business C and V Loane Ltd was fined £20,000.

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