Farmer’s widow hopes lessons can be learned

The widow of a Strabane farmer who fell to his death while trying to move a bale of hay has said she hopes lessons will be learned within the farming community as a result of the tragedy.

Kathleen Roulston gave evidence to Derry Coroner’s Court on Wednesday of how her husband used to rock bales of hay to allow him to move them from the top of the hay stack as he needed them.

It is thought that 59-years-old Christopher Irwin Roulston, of Moneycannon Road, was moving a bale of hay when he lost his balance and fell a distance of 2.65metres to his death on March 7 this year.

The court had heard how Mrs Roulston had spoken to her husband shortly after 1pm on the day of his death and had returned home at 4.15.

In her evidence she told the court she had changed and walked out to the yard to find her husband, when she came across his body lying by the shed in a pool of blood.

The court heard how Mrs Roulston touched her husband’s face and he was cold to the touch before she returned to the house to call a neighbour for help.

A post-mortem examination revealed that Mr Roulston had died as a result of a significant head injury, with lacerations to the brain and associated fractures. The injuries were, the court heard, consistent with a fall from a height and with Mr Roulston landing on his head.

Giving evidence Brian Pryce from the Health and Safety Executive, who investigated the accident, said that upon arriving at the scene of the accident he saw where the bales of hay were stacked and found an aluminium ladder leaning against them. Stating the bales were 8ft by 4ft by 3ft, he said he would estimate their weight to be around 350kgs. Mr Roulston would most likely have had to rock the bale to gain ‘considerable momentum’ before pushing it off the top of the hay stack.

When questioned by Coroner John Lecky, Mr Pryce said that there was machinery available for such a practice but that many farms did not have it and that pushing the bales in this way was “common practice”.

Mrs Roulston said she hoped the farming community would learn lessons from her husband’s death, which Coroner John Lecky described as a ‘tragic accident’.