Grave digger says he slipped on ice and broke ankle but did not fall into grave

A grave digger who claimed he slipped on ice fracturing his ankle at a funeral is suing the local council.

Nicky O’Brien told Mr Justice Kevin Cross he was walking away after the grave of an elderly woman had been covered to be filled in later at St Ibar’s cemetery near Wexford town when his foot went and he fell.

“I felt a crack in my foot. The path was slippy . It should have been salted and it wasn’t,” he said.

He said there was later a rumour that he had fallen in a grave, but he said he fell on the path.

Nicky O Brien of Windmill Heights, Wexford, pictured leaving the Four Courts after a High Court action against Wexford County Council. Pic: Collins Courts

Mr O’Brien who later had to have reconstruction surgery on his right ankle said he was out of work for about eight months after the accident.

Opening the case Richard Kean SC said the conditions were treacherous at the time,the ground was frozen and there was frost and ice. The graveyard he said is very exposed and it was their case the Council had not provided grit and salt which could have been spread on the paths at the cemetery at Crosstown, outside Wexford town.

Nicky O’Brien (56), Windmill Heights, Wexford has sued his employer at the time, Wexford Borough Council, as a result of the accident on January 8, 2009.

He has claimed Wexford Borough Council permitted the footpath to be and remain in a dangeorus and unsafe condition and allegedly failed to warn him of the hazardous nature of the path.

He has further claimed there was an alleged failure to warn employees and the public in general of the existence of the hazard on the footpath when it ought to have known it was unsafe.

He further claimed that as a result of the accident he has been unable to particiapte fully in normal sporting and social activiites.

The Council has denied the claims and contend that Mr O’Brien failed to take any care for his own safety and allegedly failed to exercise his common sense about the task in hand and allegedly failed to have any or any adequate regard to the weather conditions prevailing at the time.

In evidence Mr O’Brien said he was walking away as the mourners left the graveside when the accident happened.

"I felt a crack in my foot I fell and when I looked down my foot was backwards," he said.

He said the path was slippy and there was no salt on it.

James Flood who was the caretaker in charge at the time of the accident told the court he had previously asked for grit for a New Year’s Eve funeral and he did not get it.

On that cocasion he said that mourners had to get out and push the hearse. On the day of the accident he said he it was bitter cold. He saw Mr O’Brien falling and called an ambulance.

The case before Mr Justice Kevin Cross continues.

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