Fatal tractor driver not wearing seat belt, inquest told

A young Devon farmer was killed after his tractor left a narrow country lane and struck a raised drain gully, an inquest was told.

Todd Riggs, 33, from Holsworthy, was flung from the cab by the collision but was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown under the wheels of the trailer he was towing.

His death led his young farmer friends to start a social media campaign – #BuckleupforIceman – to encourage more farmers to wear seat belts when driving tractors.

See also: Tractors on the road – rights, wrongs, rules and regulations

Their campaign video to take safety more seriously has been shared worldwide. 

An inquest heard on Monday (7 January) that Mr Riggs had been driving down a hill along an unclassified lane towing an empty trailer when the incident happened.

Harvesting work

The inquest at Exeter’s County Hall was told that on the day of his death, 18 July 2017, Mr Riggs was working for a friend, Dean Millman, an agricultural contractor, doing some harvesting work.

He had been transporting grass with a New Holland tractor and trailer back to a farm between Beaworthy and Shebbear, in Devon.

Mr Millman said there was a raised well gully along the lane, which could not be seen driving down the hill and there was no plastic reflector showing where it was.

He said grass covered the entrance to the gully, hiding it from view.

Senior Devon coroner Philip Spinney said it appeared the offside of the tractor left the narrow tarmac carriageway and “struck an obstacle”.

He said road markings showed that the tractor flew around 4m in the air and Mr Riggs was ejected from the cab.

Mr Spinney said: “It appears that Todd was not wearing a seat belt at the time.”

The collision led to him being thrown from the cab of the tractor and he was trapped beneath the front wheels of the empty twin-axle trailer he was towing.

He died from multiple wounds at the scene.

‘Farming was his life’

Representatives from Devon County Council told the coroner that concrete lump obstacle had been moved and the hole filled following the tragedy.

The coroner had told Mr Riggs’ family that “it [the concrete obstacle] did play a part in this”. His mother Pamela said: “We would not like something like this to happen to anyone else.”

Mrs Riggs said her eldest son was just 10 years old when he first drove a small tractor on farmland. She said her son was “well-known and well-respected” and that he lived for farming.

Mr Riggs was a former pupil of Holsworthy Community College and the former chairman of Bradworthy Young Farmers’ Club, and was a well known, popular figure in the farming community.

The verdict was accidental death.

‘Iceman’ challenge urges tractor drivers to buckle up

Young farmers in Devon are urging the industry to get behind a safety campaign in memory of Todd Riggs, from Holsworthy.

The campaign, called #buckleupforiceman, urges people drivers to always wear a seatbelt when riding in a tractor, especially before taking to the road.

Mr Riggs’ close friend Craig Rowland, from North Petherwin, started the farm safety challenge.

The challenge asks people to nominate friends and family to “buckle up”, take a photo or video, share on social media – and tag at least two more people to do the same.

Mr Rowland said: “Before you pull on to that road in your tractor, stick your belt on. We’ll never know if this could have saved the iceman’s life – but it could save yours.”