Call for farm vigilance at inquest into toddler’s death

Ben Regan (23 months) suffered fatal head injuries when struck by falling horsebox dividers

A coroner has urged people to be extremely vigilant on farms after a jury returned a verdict of of accidental death at the inquest into the death of a toddler in Co Cork.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill.

A coroner has urged people to be extremely vigilant on farms after a jury returned a verdict of of accidental death at the inquest into the death of a toddler in Co Cork. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill.

 

A coroner has urged people to be extremely vigilant on farms after a jury returned a verdict of accidental death at the inquest into the death of a toddler in Co Cork.

Ben Regan, who was 23 months old, suffered fatal injuries when a horse box dividers fell on him on his grandmother’s farm near Schull on May 23rd, 2015.

Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn extended his sympathies to the boy’s family after hearing the details of the case.

Ben’s grandmother Emily Nolan told the inquest the boy wanted to accompany her to the henhouse on her farm at Derryleary to feed the hens and collect eggs.

Ms Nolan said Ben wanted his father, Roy Regan, to accompany them to the hen house but he had work to do on his nearby equestrian centre. Ben was was behind her as she approached the door to the building, she said.

“The door was a bit stiff to open as it was catching on the ground so I had to give it a bit of a pull to open it. The next thing I know is that a horsebox dividers that was up against the wall came crashing down on top of Ben as he was standing behind me,” she said.

Ms Nolan told how she picked up Ben and raced around to the garden of the Regans’ house and told Ben’s father what had happened and to call the emergency services.

First aid

Angela O’Callaghan, a local woman who was collecting her daughter from the equestrian centre, administered first aid on Ben until local GPs Dr Helen Finlay and Dr Brian O’Connell arrived.

Ben was airlifted by an Irish Coastguard helicopter to Cork University Hospital but attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said Ben suffered multiple skull fractures and would have been knocked unconscious immediately. He died from traumatic brain injury with brain swelling, contusions and a subarachnoid haemorrhage due to blunt force trauma to the head, she said.

Health and safety inspector David Barry said the matter had been investigated fully by the Health and Safety Authority and there was no evidence that Ms Nolan had been negligent in her care of Ben. A file was sent to the DPP who recommended that there be no prosecution.

Mr Regan asked whether the HSA had found if there was an appropriate health and safety statement in place in relation to the farm but Mr Comyn said the inquest was not the appropriate forum for such a question.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

Mr Regan said he would accept the verdict and finding of the jury if the words “horsebox dividers” were replaced by “scrap metal” but Mr Comyn declined to change the wording. Mr Regan said that he would pursue the matter in a higher court.

“This tragic case reinforces the need for extreme vigilance at all times on farms,” said Mr Comyn.