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Inquest Hears ‘Hero’ Farm Worker Drowned In Slurry Tank After Trying To Rescue Colleague

Expert Work Accident Lawyers Call For Greater Regulation Of Farming Industry


Lawyers acting on behalf of the heartbroken wife of a ‘hero’ farm worker who drowned in a slurry pit after being overcome by toxic fumes as he tried to rescue a colleague, say stricter regulation is needed to prevent further agricultural fatalities.

The call from specialist work accident lawyers at Irwin Mitchell comes after an inquest into the deaths of father-of-three Paul Gray and 27-year-old Craig Whipps who died at Albyns Farm in Stapleford Tawney in Essex in July 2011.

Following the tragedy, Paul’s devastated wife Anna instructed experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether more could have been done to prevent the 48-year-old dairy herdsman’s death.

During the hearing at Chelmsford Coroner’s Court, Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray heard that Craig Whipps tried to repair a guillotine device that controlled the flow of slurry, but after removing bolts, it swung open releasing gallons of the liquid causing Craig to get swept along.

Paul, who lived on the farm with his family and was milking cows nearby, twice went back into the tank to try and rescue Craig, but was overcome by toxic fumes released by the slurry. Emergency services arrived on the scene and managed to resuscitate two other farm workers who had tried to help but sadly nothing could be done to save Paul and Craig.

The jury recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Workplace injury experts at Irwin Mitchell secured an admission of responsibility in relation to the equipment from the owners of the farm – R Torrance & Company Ltd in November 2011 and the firm is now working to secure a settlement for the Gray family to provide them with financial security and allow them to continue living in the farmhouse where the three children have grown up.

Representing the family, Keith Barrett, said: “The Gray family have been left distraught by the loss of Paul and understandably wanted answers about the circumstances surrounding his death where it seems his heroic actions ultimately killed him.

“The inquest today has gone some way to provide these, but sadly fatal accidents on farms are not uncommon occurrences. The Health and Safety Executive finds the fatal injury incidence rate in agriculture is the highest of the main industrial sectors, including construction.

“We hope this case now acts as a warning to all those in the industry that strict regulation is needed to ensure equipment is working correctly, and that robust training and procedures are put in place so workers are aware of the protocol when something becomes defunct.”

Anna and Paul married in 1986 and moved to Albyns Farm once Paul was given the job as dairy herdsman. They went on to have three daughters who are now aged between 18 and 25.

Anna said: “My daughters and I were in the kitchen and I could see emergency services heading to the farm and I decided to run up there.
“I’ll never forget the mess we saw and hearing the news that Paul had tried to rescue Craig but nothing could be done to save either of them. It felt like my heart was being ripped out.

“The last 18 months have been hell as we’ve struggled to accept what happened and whilst the inquest had given us some answers about what happened that day, noting can turn back the clock.

“Paul was a dedicated husband and father and worked hard in his job to allow us to live in the farmhouse. Now he has gone, I am struggling to pay the bills, so on top of everything else I have that to worry about.

“I just hope lessons are learnt by the farming industry in general about the risks workers face and how important it is to take every step possible to protect them. It won’t bring Paul back but it might save other lives and prevent anyone else from suffering like we have.”

Keith Barrett added: “We will now work with R Torrance & Company Ltd to arrange a package for the family that will ensure they have financial stability whilst the children progress through further education and allow them to continue living in the house where they have grown up.”


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