News / FAI – Farmer’s tragic death avoidable

Lerwick Sheriff Court.

THE TRAGIC death of a 62-year old farmer in Shetland might have been avoided had she not entered a pen with a pregnant cow head-on but by a doorway, thus giving the animal warning of her approach, a Fatal Accident Inquiry has found.

Patricia Wishart sustained chest and abdominal injuries when being pinned down and struck several times by the heavily pregnant cow, which was startled by the deceased entering its pen with a view to checking on its condition.

Emergency services were called to the scene of the accident at Mid Town, East Houlland, Bixter, in the late afternoon of 6 March 2015.

Witnessing the accident, her husband Robert was able to beat the cow away and pull his wife into an open area of the byre where he immediately administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

He managed to bring Mrs Wishart round on two occasions before she succumbed to the effects of her injuries and died in his presence.


During a two-hour long Fatal Accident Inquiry, held at Lerwick Sheriff Court ear-ier this month, sheriff Philip Mann heard evidence from two police officers and a Health and Safety Executive inspector.

He also considered written evidence from Caroline Hinton, the GP who had been called to the accident, as well as Aberdeen based locum pathologist Justine Nkonge who carried out the post mortem examination.

Evidence from the deceased’s husband was presented in the way of police interview notes.

In his determination, published on Tuesday, sheriff Mann said Mrs Wishart’s death “might have been avoided if she had taken the precaution of entering the pen by a doorway” which gave access to the side of the pen.

“This would have allowed her to approach the cow from its side or rear, thus giving the cow warning of her approach and lessening the risk of the cow being startled,” the sheriff wrote.

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He continued saying that a number of other factors had contributed to the accident, namely a tethering system that allowed the cow to move too far forward and sideways and the ad-hoc nature of the pen’s construction.

He acknowledged that farming is an “inherently dangerous” industry to work in.

He added: “It is very easy to counsel perfection after the event and, with the benefit of hindsight, to point out errors of judgment and deficiencies in working practices that are not necessarily at all obvious to those who are engaged in the industry as a way of life.

“It is testament to the care taken by Mrs Wishart and her husband in the running of their crofting business that they were engaged in it together for many years without major incident.

“It is tragic that their long and harmonious personal and working life together has been brought to an end in such a sudden and unforeseen way by an accident the likes of which could, but for the grace of God, strike at anyone at any time in this particular industry.


“All that we can hope for is that any publicity given to this case will encourage farmers and crofters to pay attention to the published advice of the Health and Safety Executive and the National Farmers Union who, I am told, in the week when this inquiry took place launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers which exist in the industry.”


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