A farmer died after a cow charged through a cattle race and crushed his head against the equipment, an inquest has heard.

The freak accident was witnessed by Carol Geddes of the Rural Payments Agency, who was visiting Ringstones Farm at Furness Vale, north Derbyshire on 10 January last year to carry out a routine inspection.

Farmer David Hallworth (51) had moved cattle through the race into a shed and was near the front of the apparatus when Miss Geddes heard “an almighty clatter”.

“There was an animal moving at speed. Mr Hallworth was facing the crush yoke mechanism, bending over, and I screamed out to him to get out of there.

“I think it was over in seconds. By the time the animal had hit him I don’t know if my warning was still flying out of my mouth,” said Miss Geddes.

“Terrible accident”

She added: “There was no response from him and I knew I had to get help quickly. I felt the whole herd could come back through so I closed the gate and ran to the farmhouse and told them there had been a terrible accident.”

Mr Hallworth, a father of two, of Charlesworth Road, Furness Vale, was taken to Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, where he was declared dead. He had died from head injuries.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Melvin Sandell told the Chesterfield inquest: “An animal had somehow got back into the race. There is a gate and its purpose is to stop that happening.”

Gate unlocked

Mr Sandell said there was no place for the bolt on the gate to be secured. It appeared that a chain was normally used to secure the gate, but not on this occasion, and it was possible that the wind had blown it open.

“The gate was not secure and animals were free to come back down the race towards him. He was trapped inside there.

“It is unlikely that the animal that hit him was aggressive – it’s possible that it had been spooked in some way,” added Mr Sandell.

North Derbyshire Coroner Tom Kelly said it was “a tragic accident involving a very fit man”, adding: “It is one of those unfortunate things”.