Death of toddler in farmyard tragedy ‘could have been avoided’

Norfolk coroner, William Armstrong

Norfolk coroner, William Armstrong - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

The death of a toddler in a farmyard accident was a tragedy which could have been avoided, a coroner said.

Twenty-two-month-old Edward Criddle was crushed when a farm worker's van drove over him as he played at his grandparents' farm near Kenninghall.

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong today expressed sympathy to the youngster's parents Richard and Lucy, but said Edward should not have been let out of sight while his father worked at Fersfield Lodge Farm, Fersfield.

'Farmyards are places of work, they are potentially dangerous: they are not playgrounds, or places of leisure or recreation,' said Mr Armstrong.

'Edward should have been under direct and constant supervision.'

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Mr Armstrong said it was a 'painful' conclusion to reach, but he had a duty to promote public safety and agreed with the Health and Safety Executive's assessment that the tragedy, which happened on November 22, could have been avoided.

A jury recorded a verdict of accidental death.

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In a statement, Mr Criddle, of adjoining Wash Farm, explained the impact the toddler's death had had on him, his wife and his three-year-old son, also called Richard.

'The events of that day have left my family devastated. Edward was a bright and happy little boy who had his whole life ahead of him,' he said.

'Lucy, Richard and I miss him deeply, and he will always be a part of our lives.'

Edward had been playing in the cattle shed while his father tended them and his brother loaded a toy tractor to feed the horses. when farm worker Kelvin Sutton parked in front of the doors at around 4pm, blocking them.

After a discussion with Mr Criddle, Mr Sutton – who had worked on the farm for more than 40 years and was known to the boys as Uncle Jacko – reversed away from the doors to allow Richard to get his tractor out, then pulled forward.

Mr Criddle noticed Edward was no longer in the shed, but explained he thought he was with his grandmother, who had walked past shortly before.

Mr Sutton said: 'As I pulled forward I felt the rear right wheel ride over something.

'I thought to myself 'There's nothing in the yard to ride over'. I stopped straight away and I could see Edward lying behind me in a puddle of water.'

Police investigators said Edward may have been knocked over when Mr Sutton reversed, or could have slipped in the puddle. He died from serious head injuries.

Malcolm Crowther, an investigator with the Health and Safety Executive, said up to four children a year were killed in farmyard accidents.

'Young children should not be taken to work on a farmyard as it is always very difficult for a farmer to properly supervise them, especially toddlers, while also working,' he said.

'This tragic accident could have been avoided if the children had been kept in a safe place to play with adequate supervision. I can only conclude that.'

Mr Armstrong said Edward's death could not be blamed on Mr Sutton, and offered his condolences to the family.

'His mortal life was cut terribly and cruelly short,' he said.

'I know you will have some happy and wonderful memories of this bright and bubbly little boy, which I hope can sustain you.'

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