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Tragic farmhand was dragged into baler

ALAN ASHBEE: was killed instantly
ALAN ASHBEE: was killed instantly

A 22-year-old farm worker who was killed when he fell into a hay baler may have been trying to fix his machine when he was pulled into it, an inquest was told.

It is thought Alan Ashbee, of Tidebrook Farm, Bethersden, near Ashford, died instantly in the incident at Court Reed Farm, Biddenden, on August 4 last year.

At the inquest at Ashford a jury decided that his death was the result of an accident.

The jury was told how Mr Ashbee died from multiple head and neck injuries. Both his wrists were fractured as well as his left forearm, leading experts to question whether he was leaning into the baler to fix something.

Investigations by the Health and Safety Executive and manufacturer Claas found net wrapping used to bundle hay had become jammed.

It may have been that Mr Ashbee, who came from a farming family and was taught how to drive a tractor and bale by his mother, was trying to fix it.

Technical manager at Claas, David McEwan-Smith said: “He was found on the top of the baler. He had probably got off to see what had gone wrong. He may have had his arms out and been drawn in.

“He got caught up in the machine and stopped the engine, stalling the tractor.

Once he was in there, there would have been no getting out.”

The jury was told how when Mr Ashbee got off to look at the baler, he only partially switched off the engine. This was highlighted by HSE inspector Michael Walters.

He said: “The shaft was running at 540 revs a minute so it will drag you in and wind you around it at 6ft per second. Your average person would be wound up in less than a second.”

“If the machine had been properly turned off, he wouldn’t have died.”

HSE inspector Michael Walters said there had been no breach of legislation and the fact Mr Ashbee had no agricultural qualifications was irrelevant to the incident.

“He learnt on the job but that is certainly not unusual in the agricultural industry,” he said. “I am happy that he was competent to do the job he was doing.

“This is the first fatal accident I have known of on a round baler in this part of the country. It is also the first I have seen of someone going into the top of one.”

Examinations of the machine did show the transition shaft from the tractor to the baler had come away but this was said to have nothing to do with the incident.

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