Fersfield: Farmyard tragedy was ‘avoidable’ - rules inquest

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.

Coroner William Armstrong 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,” he said, “Edward should have been under direct and constant supervision.”

He 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, on November 22, could have been avoided.

A jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

In a statement, Mr Criddle, of Wash Farm, explained the impact the child’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.”

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Edward had been playing in the cattle shed while his father tended them when farmworker Kelvin Sutton parked in front of the doors at around 4pm. After a discussion, Mr Sutton – who had worked on the farm for more than 40 years and was known to the boys as Uncle Jacko – reversed to allow Mr Criddle to get his tractor out, then pulled forward.

Mr Criddle noticed Edward was no longer in the shed, but said he thought he was with his grandmother.

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 straightaway 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.

Mr Armstrong said Edward’s death could not be blamed on Mr Sutton, and offered his condolences to the family, saying: “I know you will have some happy and wonderful memories of this bright and bubbly little boy, which I hope can sustain you.”