All Scottish farmers using quad bikes should receive proper driver training, a sheriff has recommended, following the death of an Argyll farmer.
Iain MacNicol, 76, died in a crash on a hillside at Turnalt Farm, Barbreck, Lochgilphead, on July 1 2018.
A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) to establish the exact cause of his death was convened by Sheriff Thomas Ward, and its results have now been published.
It heard Mr MacNicol had worked on the farm for more than 60 years, and was “very experienced and knowledgeable” of the 4,500 acre site
He walked the farm every day until 2012, when he purchased a quad bike to help him navigate the land.
The inquiry was told a group of seven had gathered on July 1 2018 to mark the lambs, and Mr MacNicol and one other used the vehicles while keeping in radio contact.
He stopped responding to messages at around 7am, and was later found lying on the ground, pinned under the quad bike.
An air ambulance arrived at around 8.15am and Mr MacNicol was pronounced dead at the scene, then taken to Mid-Argyll Hospital.
The inquiry heard the farmer had “in the past” been distracted by looking at his dogs, rather than sheep, and was prone to taking “turns”.
In his judgement, Sheriff Ward noted these were “infrequent, however usually lasted for a short time during which time he would remain stationary and wait for them to pass”.
He also heard the farmer had not had professional quad bike training – but had been given instruction from a family member – and was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
In addition, the quad bike had been modified with a plastic fish box affixed to the front.
A post-mortem examination recorded Mr MacNicol’s cause of death as a neck injury, but could not conclude if his pre-existing heart condition contributed to his condition.
Sheriff Ward determined there were six factors which could have played a role in the fatality.
This included Mr MacNicol’s health condition, the rough terrain and unsafe route taken, his partially-obscured visibility, a lack of attention and driver confidence.
He said: “No precautions could reasonably have been taken which might realistically have resulted in the death being avoided.”
Sheriff Ward made three recommendations to avoid a similar incident from occurring.
He said anyone working on a farm and using a quad bike should undertake driving instruction, that the vehicle users should wear a safety helmet, and that adaptations which can obscure vision should not be used.
Sheriff Ward said: “There is no doubt that there is an art in driving a quad bike and there is an owner’s manual indicating the necessary steps which should be taken when driving up or down a hill or traversing one.
“The fact that the quad bike is open to the elements, and generally has no roll bar makes it all the more essential that the person driving wears some form of safety helmet in the event of the quad bike turning over.
“I send my condolences to the MacNicol family for their tragic loss.”