What started out as a very usual day on the farm turned into a nightmare with one simple mistake.Stephen O’Donnell and his son Aaron - who was then just thirteen-years-old - were working on the farm.
Stephen parked the tractor in front of the shed to attach a cattle trailer and Aaron, who was keen to help his father, went to get the hitch to change it. He had done this before so there was no reason to worry.
Aaron lowered the hitch to pull out the pins and carefully changed it out. Aaron then decided to reach in through the back window of the tractor to manoeuvre the lever for the hitch to latch it; he could reach if he stood on the drawbar.
Aaron discovered that he was standing too close when the hitch rose as his toes became trapped.
Unable to release his foot as the hitch had latched, he tried moving the lever again and his foot was crushed for a second time.
When his foot was finally released, Aaron crossed the yard to tell his father, believing that his toes were simply bruised. He collapsed and both Stephen and Aaron’s mother Catherine put him in the car and rushed him to the emergency room.
“I took off my sock and my toes just fell out,” said Aaron, “they had been completely cut off”. He underwent an operation to re-connect his toes but unfortunately, he later suffered from an infection and had to return to the hospital to have his toes removed.
Aaron had to give up sport due to constant pain in his foot and he has lost confidence in his appearance.
“Whenever I go on holiday, I worry about who’s going to see my foot, how people will react,” said Aaron. In addition to how Aaron feels about the appearance of his foot, he is also concerned that future employers will consider him unsafe on the job site.
Stephen feels a lot of guilt about his son’s accident, “Don’t let them do it on their own” warns Stephen, “just stay with them until everything is secured” he added.
The O’Donnells are much more careful of working with machinery now, using PTO guards and making decisions with a lot more caution.“Thank God I got away lightly,” said Aaron.
According to the Health and Safety Authority, tractors and machinery are the most common cause of injury and death to young people on farms.
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