Farmer’s legacy ‘lives on’ after inquest rules fall from mezzanine was an ‘accident’
- Credit: Archant
A revered farmer who ‘inspired’ generations of academics and musicians died after suffering a ‘traumatic head injury’ when he fell from a loft at his small holding, an inquest was told.
Andrew Sheppy, of Congresbury, was fetching wood from a two-metre-tall mezzanine level in an outbuilding when he fell off the edge and hit his head on the ground – causing a skull fracture.
The 68-year-old, of High Street, was working on his farm, in Cobthorn Way, when he died, and friends have paid tribute to the ‘farmer, scientist, academic and musician’.
Mr Sheppy’s death, on May 9, 2017, was an accident, a jury at Avon Coroners Court, in Flax Bourton, concluded on Friday.
He was a stalwart of Congresbury and a well-respected farmer, working for many years to prevent the extinction of rare breeds of livestock – leaving behind a lasting ‘legacy’.
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Mr Sheppy arrived at the farm at around 4pm, and went into an outbuilding to find some timber to repair a hen house after having problems with foxes.
He was accompanied by farmhand Macauley Anderson, who watched his boss climb a fixed ladder to the mezzanine level before leaving to carry out some work elsewhere on the farm.
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Mr Anderson said: “I watched him get into the loft area and left him to it. He was fine up there. We had been up there many times. It is full of wood and parts he has thrown up there over the years.
“It was about 5.50pm and I went to look for him. I went to the hen house but could see nothing.
“I went back to the outbuilding and climbed onto the ladder and could see him.
“He was face down on the floor. I could see blood coming from his head. I was very panicked and started calling ‘Shep’.
“I was calling his name but I was getting no response.
“I could see there was lots of blood and he wasn’t moving. I gently shook his legs but there was no response.
“He wasn’t breathing and I could see there was lots of blood by his nose and mouth.”
Mr Anderson called for an ambulance, but the best efforts of paramedics failed to save Mr Sheppy – who was pronounced dead at the scene.
A post mortem found the deceased suffered an open head fracture from the fall.
Doctors also found there were no drugs or alcohol in his system, while his GP reported Mr Sheppy appeared to be ‘extremely well’ before the accident.
Simon Chilcott, of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), investigated the incident.
He told the court: “The ladder was in good condition.
“It wouldn’t have been easy to walk across the mezzanine. There were lots of things up there and you would need to pick your way through it. There was no barrier.
“The most probable explanation is he was trying to acquire some timber from the storage area and fell from the open edge.
“It should have had some rails to prevent you falling.”
No action, other than the installation of a guard rail, has been taken against the farm – which is overseen by the Cobthorn Trust, of which Mr Sheppy was a trustee – by the HSE as it was deemed he had ‘control of his workspace’, but the HSE ‘understands the farm is not going to carry on’ without Mr Sheppy.
After a short deliberation, the jury concluded Mr Sheppy’s death was caused by an accidental ‘traumatic’ head injury.
Assistant coroner Peter Harrowing said: “The fall was not witnessed by anyone. Whether he tripped, slipped or bumped his head, we will never know.”
Alex Ballard, who has penned a book on Mr Sheppy since his death, paid tribute to her friend.
She told the Times: “Many saw only the farmer in his muddy clothes, and were unaware of the scientist, academic and musician behind the appearance.
“However, Andrew sat on advisory committees, was the president of several bodies concerned with rare breeds and was a guest lecturer at Bristol University’s Langford vet college.
“He also played the church organ and conducted choirs.
“He died leaving so much he planned to do still undone. However his legacy does live on in the breeds that he saved from extinction, the music he wrote, the vets, singers and musicians he taught and inspired, and the farmers and geneticists who are trying to continue his work.”