A 45-year-old huntsman suffered fatal chest and head injuries when he was attacked by a stag as he went to feed the animal , an inquest has heard.
Father of three, Gerard Withers from Rossinarna, Liscarroll, Co Cork was fatally injured when, working on his own, he went to feed a red deer stag at the Duhallow Hunt Kennels in Liscarroll on December 29 last.
At an inquest in Mallow on Wednesday, Mr Withers’ father, Derry told how his son called to him at his home in Liscarroll at about 2.30pm on the day in question and told him that he was going to the kennels to feed the hounds.
He tried ringing and texting him at about 4.45pm but got no answer so he rang his son’s wife, Marie. She said she had rung and texted as well but had not received any reply. Mr Withers went to the kennels where he found his son.
“I saw him lying against the side of a pen which housed a stag,” said Mr Withers, adding that he could see that his son was badly injured but he was unable to get him out of the pen because the stag was still about.
Garda Ger Dillon of Charleville Garda station told how he and colleagues went to the Duhallow Kennels after receiving a call at about 9.30pm from Garda Control at Anglesea Street in Cork that a man had been injured by a stag.
They arrived and found Mr Withers visibly upset and he told them that he had found his son lying face down in a paddock after being attacked by a stag, but with the help of some neighbours they had moved him into an adjoining field.
Garda Dillon said that a GP working with Southdoc, Dr Ronel Barnard pronounced Mr Withers dead at the scene at 11.44pm and his body was removed to Cork University Hospital for a postmortem examination.
Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster told the inquest that she found at postmortem that Mr Withers had suffered severe lacerations and bruising to both his chest and to his head as well as multiple fractures to his ribs.
These injuries were consistent with injuries caused by a stag’s antlers and she said that Mr Withers died from blunt force trauma to the chest and the head due to animal attack injuries from a stag.
However, she assured Mr Withers’ family that his injuries, particularly those to his chest, were so severe he would have had difficulty breathing and would have quickly lost consciousness and did not suffer for any great length of time.
The inquest also heard from a report from Health and Safety Authority inspector, Ger McSweeney that he examined the scene of the incident and found that a bucket of feed nuts had been untouched near the entrance to the paddock.
He said there were no witnesses to what happened as Mr Withers had been working alone carrying out his duties as huntsman but it appeared he had been attacked by the red deer stag after he opened the gate to the paddock.
He had made inquiries about the stag and discovered Mr Withers had obtained the animal from a huntsman with the United Hunt in East Cork who acquired the animal in 2019 but Mr Withers had not paid any money for the animal.
Mr McSweeney said from his inquiries he discovered that neither the Duhallow Hunt Chairman nor the Duhallow Hunt Trustees were aware that Mr Withers, who was their sole employee, had procured the stag.
He said that he had prepared a report on the incident but the HSA had decided not to take any prosecution for any breaches of health and safety legislation in relation to Mr Withers’ death.
Coroner for North Cork, Dr Michael Kennedy returned a verdict of accidental death and extended his sympathies to Mr Withers' family in particular his father who had the very upsetting experience of finding his son fatally injured.
Insp Paul Ahern extended the sympathies of An Garda Síochána to the Withers family while David O'Meara sympathised on behalf of the Duhallow Hunt, saying that the late Mr Withers was highly respected by all in the hunt.
Mr Withers thanked An Garda Síochána and all who attended on the evening including paramedics and doctors as well as Dr Kennedy for their sympathetic treatment of the family throughout the entire tragedy.