Farmer Alan Latham was crushed to death between a tractor and a trailer as he tried to carry out a repair, an inquest heard.
A jury at Salisbury yesterday recorded a verdict of accidental death after hearing the 87-year-old was working alone at Wild’s Farm in Hilcott, near Pewsey.
He had been repairing a grass mower attached to the rear of his tractor. He was found by colleague, Pearce Dixon, on the morning of July 23 last year. It is believed the accident happened between 3.45pm and 5.15pm the previous day.
Mr Dixon works for tree surgeon Ian Pocock, who rented a barn from Mr Latham to store equipment. He arrived at the farm at 7.50am to load up his kit when he saw Mr Latham’s tractor parked next to a trailer in a barn.
“As I walked past the tractor I thought I saw Alan and said hello to him but I got no reply. But then as I walked further I saw Alan pinned between the tractor and the trailer,” his statement read.
“As I went to help him I realised he was dead, he was stone cold and must have been there for a while. I then called the ambulance and while I was on the phone I saw Mr Pocock arriving.”
They moved the tractor to free Mr Latham’s body. Mr Pocock said in a statement: “When I got into the cab the keys were in the ignition and the ignition lights were on and the stop leaver was pushed in which meant that the tractor had stalled. It appeared as if he was standing on the floor and leaning into the cab to adjust the hydraulics that are used to adjust the height of the mower.”
It was explained that it is common practice for tractors to be left in gear while they are being used, but not driven, which would make it possible to engage another leaver which would move the vehicle forward.
Sgt James Trafford said based on a reconstruction it was likely Mr Latham, aware of recent damage, had parked the tractor in his barn, with the mower attached, to repair it.
His statement read: “He either took hold of the wrong leaver or slipped and knocked the engage leaver into forward gear, causing the tractor to move suddenly forwards, the mower making contact with the drawbar of the trailer. Alan did not have time to react to the situation, the tractor began to rotate towards the trailer, trapping him between the tractor and the trailer.” The father-of-four, who had nine grandchildren, grew up on the farm after being adopted at the age of two and had lived there alone since his wife, Janet, died in 2004.
He had a history of extensive coronary problems but a post mortem examination said although ischemic heart disease was a contributory factor to his death, the primary cause was crush injury.