Farmer fined over quad bike tragedy

A farmer has been fined over the tragic death of a young farm apprentice who died in a quad bike accident.

Phillip Nyhan, 17, was riding the quad given to him to use at Runnage Farm, Postbridge, a hamlet in Dartmoor, Devon, when he collided head-on with a car, Plymouth Crown Court was told.

He died of his injuries in hospital following the crash, which happened on a minor road near Postbridge on Dartmoor, on 7 June 2007.

Farmer Philip Coaker, 50, failed to properly maintain the quad bike that was later involved in the fatal collision. He admitted not maintaining the quad bike in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive.

Mr Nyhan, of Wotter, was an apprentice working for Moorskills Farming Project. He had been sent to work at Runnage Farm, where he was given instruction on using the quad, the court heard.

A police investigation found that about three weeks before the accident, the rear brakes of the vehicle broke, but Mr Coaker decided the quad was still safe to use with caution.

However, the court heard that the defects with the quad bike did not have a direct bearing on Mr Nyhan’s death.

Mr Coaker, from Widecombe-in-the-moor, Devon, pleaded guilty to breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was fined £250 and ordered to pay £2,000 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Simon Jones said: “It is essential that quad bikes are properly maintained. If a quad is not in full working order it should not be used. In this case, Mr Coaker should have taken the vehicle out of use until the back brake was fully repaired.

“Sadly, although Phillip Nyhan had access to a helmet that he had been told to wear, he was not wearing one when the accident happened. This tragic case also highlights the need for farm workers to always wear a helmet when riding a quad bike.”

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