One-off human error to blame for ex-Kelso laddie’s death in quad bike accident, inquiry told

2016 Kelso laddie Ian Whellans.2016 Kelso laddie Ian Whellans.
2016 Kelso laddie Ian Whellans.
A Borders farmer died after a quad bike overturned on a steep bank and trapped him in a burn, drowning him, a fatal accident inquiry has been told.

That tragedy occurred as Ian Whellans, 2016’s Kelso laddie, was tending to pedigree sheep and cattle alone on a farm near Hume on Sunday, November 11, 2018.

His death prompted an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive.

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The inquiry, held at Edinburgh Sheriff Court by telelink because of the current coronavirus lockdown, heard that after the 26-year-old’s absence was noticed, farm manager Bruce Renwick tracked him down and then struggled in vain to save his life.

Depute fiscal Rebecca Swansey told the hearing:“Mr Whellans was underneath the quad bike and his face was submerged under the water.

“Mr Renwick pulled him onto the bank, but he was showing no signs of life.”

The alarm was raised after the quad bike and trailer driven by Mr Whellans was seen to be missing from its usual parking place at JB Renwick and Son’s farm at Legars, near Kelso.

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Skidmarks were visible at the top of the slope, and though the quad bike was found not to have any mechanical faults, its tyres were caked in mud and were slightly over-inflated at the front, the inquiry heard.

Sheriff Chris Dickson said: “What the Health and Safety Executive seems to be saying is that because of the steepness of the slope, taken with the angle he tackled the slope at, the quad bike became unstable and rolled down the steep slope into the burn.”

The inquiry heard that Mr Whellans would have died quickly and not suffered long after the quad bike pinned his chest in the six-inch-deep water.

It is thought that he might have been knocked unconscious when the quad bike landed on him so he would have been unaware of what happened thereafter, the hearing was told.

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Mr Whellans, a trained quad bike rider, wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time, but even if he had been, it almost certainly wouldn’t have helped, according to Ms Swansey.

“Because of what we know of the cause of death, he still would have been trapped, unable to move with his face in that water, so I don’t think wearing a helmet would have changed that outcome,” she said.

The crown’s investigation concluded that Mr Whellans’ death was down to human error rather than any defective working practice, with Mr Dickson describing it as “a mistake at that time, rather than any general incompetence”.

The inquiry heard the reason why the former Kelso Rugby Club player, nicknamed Splodge, was driving the quad bike on the slope at that time remains a mystery.

A determination by Mr Dickson is expected in two weeks’ time.

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