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A 78-year-old farmer died when he was accidentally crushed by his own tractor, an inquest has heard.

Great-grandfather James Tatham managed to start the tractor from outside the cab, East Lancashire coroner Richard Taylor was told.

But the vehicle had been left in gear and the handbrake was off. The tractor moved forward, hitting Mr Tatham before stopping when it hit the back of the barn.

Mr Tatham’s body was found lying next to the tractor on 13 April at Sunnyside Farm, Fence, near Nelson, Lancashire.

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Philip Walker, from Lancashire Police’s accident investigation unit, said it was likely that the tractor could be started without using a key.

“A wire within the engine compartment could be used to create a circuit and bypass the ignition key and start the engine,” the Lancashire Telegraph reported.

“Due to the way tractors are built, they can move forward from this if left in gear, whereas a normal car would have stalled.

“This method is not an approved method for starting a vehicle but it is common practice.”

The 26-year-old tractor did not have any faults and satisfied agricultural vehicle regulations, the inquest was told.

Fatal accident

The coroner concluded that the fatality was an accidental death and the tractor had driven over Mr Tatham, causing fatal injuries.

Mr Tatham’s son, David, described his father as a loving family man who would be greatly missed.

He said: “He spent all his life working on a farm. He was very good at what he did and he knew a lot about tractors and how they worked.”

Mr Tatham leaves behind two children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren