Coroner: warnings needed

Last updated 12:13 15/11/2012

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A coroner has called on Federated Farmers to publicise the dangers of children being left unattended on farms after finding an Invercargill toddler died because a cow trampled on his head.

According to coroner's findings, released today, Jack Tatham, 20 months, was killed when he got into a holding pen full of cattle and a cow delivered a fatal blow to his head.

He was left only for a few minutes and Coroner David Crerar said although the tragedy served as a lesson to other parents, Jack's parents had not slipped in their duty of care.

"Although it may be said the parents of Jack were remiss in not being in active supervision of him at all times, there must be a reasonable limit to their duties and responsibilities."

Jack died in Dunedin Hospital on August 24, 2011, in the arms of his parents.

Just a day before he was a "healthy active" boy playing on the family farm, while his parents performed "routine task" around a milking shed.

About midday on August 23, Jack's parents, Jimmy and Kerry Tatham took a delivery of cows to the farm where they were contract milking. The cows were penned to a yard next to the milking shed to allow them to settle before being released into the paddocks.

Although Jack was not yet two years old, he was still described as an active boy.

"He could run, he could climb into the car and he could climb into gates."

After the cows had arrived Jack's parents placed him in a secure room in the milking shed so he could be safe while they attended to a quick task.

"They closed the door on Jack in a room where they knew he would be safe and left him only for a few minutes.

"Jimmy Tatham heard Jack muttering as he was going to retrieve him so would have been only seconds away from stopping Jack entering the yard."

When he was found by his father just seconds later, he was unresponsive with a swollen left eye and grazes on his face.

A pathologist's report showed Jack suffered "cranial trauma that led to irreversible cranial swelling and pressure on the vital cardiorespiratory centre of the brain".

Crerar described the death as "tragic", but emphasised there was no blame to be laid on the parents.

"I can attribute no blame to either Kerry Tatham or Jimmy Tatham in respect of their responsibilities," Crerar said.

He said others however could learn from incident, and recommended his findings be forwarded to Federated Farmers to publicise to its members.

Federated Farmers Health and Safety spokeswoman Jeanette Maxwell said the organisation had not received the coroner's report yet, but would make the coroner's findings public when it did.

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"Health, safety and wellbeing is something we take very seriously, and we have policies and there is legislation for child safety on farms."

Maxwell said  any death was a tragedy and farms were no different to other workplaces.

"Generally most accidents are preventable, but with some we understand there is just no way to see it coming until it's happened."

- Fairfax Media

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