An Orpington farmer who died in a tragic crop-sprayer accident might have been saved if a seat belt requirement was in place, an inquest was told.
Alan Dimbleby, 62, was spraying crops at Warren Barn Farm in Westerham, Kent, on July 23 last year when his tractor overturned, throwing him from the cab and rolling several times.
A jury of four men and seven woman at Surrey Coroner's Court heard Mr Dimbleby, a father-of-three, was an experienced agricultural worker who had worked on farms for most of his life.
The Bateman crop sprayer, which was the machine Mr Dimbleby used “99 per cent” of the time according to employer Peter Duke, is not required by health and safety rules to have a seatbelt.
The tractor's cab is designed to withstand impact, but Mr Dimbleby was thrown from the cab as the tractor flipped and landed on him.
Dave Daniels and Victoria Johnson were walking nearby at the time of the accident and, having seen an escaped calf, were on the way to speak to the farmers when the accident occurred.
Mr Daniels said: “We were walking along watching them, and I said ‘oh my god, look at that’, and the crop sprayer was just rolling down the hill.”
Ms Johnson said: “I looked up straight away at the older tractor, I would say it was on the second or third roll.
“We were flabbergasted, it was a silent and unusual spectacle.”
Paragliding instructor Andy Shaw gave Mr Dimbleby, who was unconscious and had injuries to his head and neck, CPR at the scene.
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The air ambulance, police, paramedics and the fire service attended the scene.
Mr Dimbleby suffered a cardiac arrest and was revived at the scene by paramedics.
He was transferred to St George's Hospital, Tooting, the nearest major trauma centre, where he suffered another cardiac arrest and was resuscitated.
Mr Dimbleby was unable to breathe independently and his family had to make the decision to follow doctors' recommendation to turn off the life support machine.
He was pronounced dead at 12.47am.
The toxicologist’s statement was read out in court and confirmed there was no trace of alcohol or any other drugs in Mr Dimbleby’s blood.
His GP stated Mr Dimbleby had very limited contact with the doctors and was not ill or taking long-term medication.
Detective Sergeant Natalie Pierce confirmed the police ruled out foul-play.
Mr Dimbleby lived in Pratts Bottom for 33 years, but was born in Park Royal Hospital and grew up in Harlesden, north London.
He loved farm work from a young age after helping on his cousin’s farm in the holidays, the court heard.
He studied animal husbandry and agriculture at Berkshire College of Agriculture where he met his wife.
Alan Dimbleby and his wife Gillian. Photo: Alan Dimbleby Memorial
Mrs Dimbleby paid tribute to her husband, telling the court: “He continued getting qualifications all the time, if there was a course that needed to be done to do the job then he would do it. He was always keen to better himself, he said we never stop learning.
“He was a safety conscious man.
“He was funny, he used to tell awful jokes, especially at Christmas, we knew it was Christmas when the dad jokes came out.
“He loved his family, he loved all his grandchildren, he loved getting together with friends and going down to the pub, if there was any parties he would always be there.
“We didn’t realise quite how many lives he touched until it came to the day of the funeral, when there were about 300 people there.
“He was a lovely man and I’m so proud to be his wife.”
The cause of death was hypoxic brain injury as a result of cardiac arrest and the coroner recorded a conclusion of accidental death.
The coroner will recommend that the manufacturer introduce seatbelts in crop sprayers.