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News / FAI hears of human tragedy involving cow

A SHETLAND crofter died when a pregnant cow jumped on top of her and repeatedly kicked its legs, a fatal accident inquiry at Lerwick Sheriff Court heard on Friday.

Patricia Wishart passed away at around 4.30pm on 6 March last year at the croft she had run with her husband in Tumblin, Bixter for four decades.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said a post-mortem confirmed that the 62 year old died from chest and abdominal injuries.

He suggested that the tragic death stemmed from a “human decision” in an occupation fraught with “inherent” danger.

The inquiry heard from a member of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who believed that there could have been different consequences if the cow’s pen was more robustly secured and if Mrs Wishart didn’t attend to the animal face-on.

Mackenzie called a total of three witnesses to give evidence, including two police staff who dealt with the case at the time.

The inquiry was told that Mrs Wishart checked on a cow, which was close to giving birth, in a pen in a byre.

She climbed through a large gap in railings by ducking under the pen’s top pole, but the “startled” cow jumped on Mrs Wishart and pinned her down.

The inquiry heard that as the cow attempted to regain its footing, it repeatedly kicked its legs, hitting Mrs Wishart in the process.

She was found stuck under the cow by her husband Robert, who attempted to bat away the animal before trying in vain to save her with CPR.

Their two grandchildren then came into the byre before Mr Wishart told them to leave because he knew it was too late to save his wife.

He did not call for an ambulance and instead phoned for a doctor, with Caroline Hinton soon arriving.

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An HSE staff member suggested that the byre was arranged in an “ad-hoc” way that would not be recommended by the organisation, with scaffolding poles forming pens.

He said that the gap between two railings on the pen in question was large enough to allow the cow to kick its legs through, and that the animal could move freely because of a loose tether.

Wishart also attended to the cow head-on, which increased the likelihood of the animal reacting in defence, especially as it was pregnant.

Summing up, Mackenzie suggested that complacency with farming methods wasn’t an issue.

He said the incident was a “human tragedy” with “horrific circumstances”.

Mackenzie noted the “sad irony” of the fatal accident inquiry being held during the National Farmers Union’s safety awareness week.

Sheriff Philip Mann said he hoped to make a written judgement on the matter as soon as possible.

He also extended his “sincere condolences” to Mrs Wishart’s family for their “tragic and untimely loss”.

 

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