Family’s tribute to student full of ‘adventure’ as Fermanagh firm fined over tractor death
Neil Graham's (17) parents travelled to Belfast to attend the sentencing along with other members of the family
The heartbroken family of a 17-year-old student who died on a Co Fermanagh farm in 2018 have paid tribute to a young son and brother who was full of fun and adventure.
Fines totalling £50,000 were handed out at Belfast Crown Court to three defendants following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive into the death of Neil Graham.
The investigation followed a workplace fatality involving a tractor which took place in Enniskillen on 22 May 2018, resulting in the death of part-time engineering student Mr Graham.
Neil's parents Joy and Eddie travelled from their home in Garrison to Belfast to attend the sentencing along with other members of the family.
Speaking after the fines were imposed, Joy spoke of her son's "absolutely needless" death and expressed the hope that what happened to Neil would prompt a change in the law regarding the use of tractors when they are in such as dangerous condition.
Both Eddie and Joy spoke about their son with pride and said he was a popular and loyal young man with a flare for fixing things.
They also spoke of his love for his friends and family as well as his love for animals, including his Labrador Millie.
Recalling the day of the fatal incident, Eddie said: "He went off to work that Tuesday morning, it was a beautiful sunny morning.
"He went off to work that morning and he was so happy, but our world shattered that day.
"I got a call later to tell me Neil had been in an accident in work and I tried to find out what happened. I thought he's nicked himself or something so I just rushed to the South West Hospital.
"I was met at the door by three police officers and they didn't need to tell me then as I just knew.
"He will never become a mechanic, he will never get married and have children."
Eddie said his son – the youngest of four siblings – was full of "fun and adventure" and was pursuing his dream job as a mechanic.
Joy described her son as "loyal" and "my DIY man."
Revealing he was two months shy of his 18th birthday, the grieving mother said: "He was very mature for his age.
"He could fix anything and was so loyal and dependable. He got his driving licence when he was 17 and he was always picking his friends up."
The family also spoke of his love of animals and recalled a day when Neil arrived home with his boot full of hens.
Neil told them he's stopped at a garage to buy the hens buns in case they were hungry, which they ate.
Following his tragic death, Neil's family have helped raise funds for the Air Ambulance and will be running as a relay team in this year's Belfast Marathon for the charity.
The tragic death occurred at the premises of Gordon Brown Agricultural Engineering, Boho Road, Enniskillen.
Gordon Brown, the owner of the business, and Neil, a part-time engineering student at South West College, Omagh, were working on repairs to a tractor owned by C&V Loane Limited of Kesh, Co Fermanagh.
Neil was completing his work placement with Gordon Brown.
While working underneath the tractor, Neil was fatally crushed by the forward movement of the back right wheel after Gordon Brown started the vehicle.
The HSENI investigation found that a safety feature to prevent the vehicle being started while in gear had been by-passed sometime prior to it being brought in for repair.
An inspection pit was available in the workshop, from where the tractor could have been examined safely from below; however, it was not used at the time.
Speaking after the hearing, HSENI Inspector Anne Cassidy said: “This tragic incident needlessly claimed the life of a young man who was training to become a qualified mechanic.
“Working under machinery of any description poses significant hazards. This work activity was even more hazardous as a key safety feature of the tractor had been disabled.
“Every employer has a responsibility to ensure the safety of workers. The identification of safe systems of work is key to ensuring safe work practices.”
Each of the three defendants had earlier pleaded guilty to the health and safety offences at a court hearing in November 2022.
Gordon Brown was fined £20,000 for failing to ensure the safety of his employee, Neil Graham, and for failing to implement a safe system while working under the tractor.
Jamie Loane, a director and employee of C&V Loane Limited, was fined £10,000 for failing in his duties as an employee to take reasonable care for the health and safety of another person.
The Court fined C&V Loane Limited £20,000 for failings in respect of its duty to Neil Graham as someone who was not directly employed by the company.
Further information on repairing vehicles safely can be found online at www.hseni.gov.uk/articles/motor-vehicle-repair.
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