Dales farmer crushed by hay bale, inquest hears

Photo: Elliott Brown/Flickr.

A farmer was crushed to death beneath a one tonne hay bale when his coat pocket pulled a forklift lever, an inquest heard.

Gary Middleton, 54, was moving the bale on his farm during bad weather on March 16 this year while his son Ryan was feeding sheep nearby.

It was Ryan who found his father trapped between the large round bale and the ‘skid-steer’-type loader he had been using to lift and move the bale, which was to be fed to cattle on the farm in Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

The inquest in Skipton heard it was unusual for Mr Middleton to be wearing a waterproof coat whilst operating the forklift and he had only done so because the weather had been particularly bad.

Outlining the facts before a jury, North Yorkshire coroner John Heath said: “Mr Middleton was working with his son, Ryan and went to feed cattle in a shed whilst Ryan was feeding sheep.

“He was moving hay bales using a fork lift, they were one tonne bales wrapped in plastic.

“Mr Middleton rang his son and said he had had an accident, His father was lying on the ground trapped between the hay bale and the vehicle.”

The weather was too poor for an air ambulance to be able to attend the remote farm in the Yorkshire Dales but an ambulance attended by road.

Paramedic Karen Towers told the hearing Mr Middleton managed to speak to her despite his severe injuries.

She said: “The patient told me the incident happened because his coat pocket caught on the forklift levers.”

The hearing was told the bale stayed on the forks of the loader but appeared to have been lowered down on top of Mr Middleton due to the lever being activated as he was exiting the cab.

He was being rushed to hospital in Preston, Lancs, but suffered a cardiac arrest en route and was diverted to Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

An emergency team battled for two hours to save him but Mr Middleton died as a result of crush injuries.

The jury concluded he died an accidental death and sustained multiple injuries from which he died as he exited the forklift.

At the end of the hearing  Mr Middleton’s sister Jill Rushton paid tribute to him.

She said: “He was larger than life and very well loved, there were over 500 people at his funeral. We all miss him desperately.”