Inquiry reveals cause of farming tragedy

A Bigton farmer died when a tractor’s loading frame collapsed on him after he undid a hydraulic hose, a fatal accident inquiry at Lerwick Sheriff Court was told.

The one-hour-long inquiry into the sudden death of Bryden Budge on 14th October will be followed by the sheriff’s written determination at the end of this week or next.

Bryden Budge with a 2010 prize-winning Charolais Bryden. Also in the photo is Stephen Leask, from Harbro. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Bryden Budge with a prize-winning Charolais in 2010. Also in the photo is Stephen Leask, from Harbro. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Before the inquiry began Sheriff Philip Mann expressed “on behalf of the court the sincerest condolences for the loss” of Mr Budge to his widow Helen and his parents Jim and Nancy and other members of the Budge family who were in court.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie told the inquiry that 46-year-old Mr Budge had been discovered by his father around 10am trapped between the John Deere tractor and its loading arms. Mr Budge senior, who had last seen his son earlier that morning, lifted the loading frame with a forklift and commenced CPR and called emergency services.

A doctor was first on the scene, and she pronounced Mr Budge dead around 10.15am.

A pathologist’s report said that Mr Budge had died from traumatic asphyxiation as a result of the accident and had three broken ribs.

Mr MacKenzie said that Mr Budge had been of generally good health other than a bad back which may have accounted for his attempt to work with the tractor’s lifting arms in an elevated position.

Although there were no witnesses to the accident, a Health and Safety Executive report said that the most likely scenario was that Mr Budge had disconnected the hose connected to the hydraulic circuit with the loader in a raised position. The weight of the loader had resulted in the loading arm dropping in an “uncontrolled manner”.

Mr MacKenzie said that everyone participating in the inquiry was aware of the human tragedy underlying the impersonal proceedings and that while the understanding of the accident might not be enhanced, it was required by law and might serve to bring the cause of the accident to the wider industry.

He added: “What I know is that Bryden was a fine decent man who people aspired to be like.” He said that the respect Mr Budge held in the local, farming and football communities was reflected in the numbers at his funeral.

“That will be his enduring legacy and not any error of judgment made on the 14th of October,” he added.

“There is no suggestion at all that Bryden was anything other than a diligent and hard working man and no suggestion that he was reckless or cavalier in his approach to his work,” he said.

The HSE report said that the accident could have been avoided by making sure the tractor’s loading arms were on the ground before commencing work; a scotch mechanism could have been fitted to prevent the hydraulic rams retracting or a support could have been used and the wheels chocked to prevent the loading frame lowering once the hydraulic pressure was released.

Sheriff Mann undertook to provide a written report by the end of the week or “very soon thereafter”.


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