Wife killed in Doncaster farm horror

Bilham House Farm, Bilham Lane, Hooton Pagnell where a woman died in a farming accident last year. Picture: Andrew Roe
Bilham House Farm, Bilham Lane, Hooton Pagnell where a woman died in a farming accident last year. Picture: Andrew Roe

A farmer’s wife from Doncaster was killed when her husband accidentally dropped a half-tonne steel bucket on her.

Arthur and Joy Turnbull were repairing fencing broken by a runaway cow when the accident happened, her inquest heard. When rescue crews arrived at the farm, they found Mrs Turnbull trapped under the half-tonne lifting bucket – and her distraught husband told them: “I’ve killed her, I’ve killed her.”

The Doncaster inquest heard Mr Turnbull had inadvertently released the bucket from the Manitou telehandler machine as he forced a fencing post into the ground at Bilham House Farm, Hooton Pagnell.

Mrs Turnbull, aged 65, a mother of two, was holding the post upright when the bucket fell, fracturing her spinal cord and causing crush injuries which starved her brain of oxygen.

Despite her husband’s desperate efforts to free her before fire crews arrived, it took the strength of five men to roll the bucket off her.

She died a week later in the Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.

After the inquest jury reached a conclusion of accidental death, Doncaster Coroner Nicola Mundy said she would write to the Health and Safety Executive with her concerns about the control panel in the cab of the telehandler, which is commonly used on British farms.

Mr Turnbull is believed to have pressed the wrong button, which caused a quick release of the bucket, rather than one next to it for moving the telescopic boom up and down.

The inquest heard on the afternoon of June 8 last year, he had moved a new cow into a field with some others but ‘it did not settle and went charging around’, breaking the fence.

Mr and Mrs Turnbull decided to repair the fence to prevent the herd getting out.

Mr Turnbull said he used the weight of the Manitou bucket to force two posts into the ground and his wife offered to hold a third upright.

He said: “I had a clear view. I put the bucket seven or eight feet into the air and saw I needed to adjust it above the post.

It happened so quickly. I must have pressed the quick-release button which allowed it to fall to the ground.

“I can only assume when I moved the bucket I pressed the wrong button.”

Mr Turnbull said the bucket had never fallen off before, but other farmers he had spoken to since had reported inadvertently touching the quick-release button.

HSE inspector Michael Raynor said it was possible Mr Turnbull had inadvertently released the locking pins and lowering the bucket onto the post would cause it to detach.

There were no defects on the machine. After the inquest, the family said: “At the heart of what we all miss about Joy is her generosity of spirit.

“She was a loving wife, mum and gran and cheerfully invested everything she had into her relationships with her family and friends and did so without the need for reward.

“She was regarded as a joyful, optimistic and warm individual who was always delighted to lend a hand, lend a sympathetic ear, or a shoulder to cry on.

“It’s been seven months since Joy left us. Those that knew her well still feel it very acutely.”