When Patrick O’Sullivan suffered crush injuries in a farm accident his eight-year-old grandson, Jack, made him a solemn promise.
Jack Nagle told his grandfather he was going to invent a device that would prevent accidents like it from happening in the first place. The now 15-year-old’s tractor safe lock, a device that automatically engages the handbrake when the driver leaves the seat, is patent pending.
Mr O’Sullivan had been working on his suckler farm in Beaufort, Co Kerry when he got off his tractor to attend to something.
“I was driving the tractor and I came off to do something and forgot to put on the handbrake. I had just turned my back and the tractor ran and trapped my left leg,” he told the Irish Examiner.
Mr O’Sullivan lay beneath the vehicle for four hours, waiting for help. His wife, Eileen, was in Tralee shopping and his son, Joe, who farms with him, was also away. He suffered only minor injuries and was kept in hospital overnight.
“I was one of the lucky ones but I did become a lot more careful about farm safety. Jack said at the time he would invent something and he was only a child.”
True to his word, Jack’s ‘tractor safe lock’ has already won numerous awards.
It was a proud Mr O’Sullivan at Kerry County Council offices in Killorglin yesterday, where his grandson was honoured with a civic reception by members of the South and West Kerry Municipal District.
“I’m very proud of him. He wants to put it into production now, which would be a good thing.
“It’s very badly needed because people are always forgetting the handbrake but if you had that on a tractor you could walk away from it and the tractor is not going to follow you. It’s always happening, day after day,” he said.
Jack’s mother Irene, grandmother, brothers Ryan and Gearóid, sister Chloe, his principal at Killorglin Community College, Con Moynihan, extended family and friends, all looked on proudly when the presentation was made.
Although he was only eight at the time, Jack recalls his grandfather’s accident vividly.
“I remember when he had the accident. It was a big thing in our family. I saw the problem and I thought something should be done about it. My granddad always reminds me of the conversation we had,” he said.
The ‘tractor safe lock’ has already won numerous accolades, including the ABP Farm Safety Award at the BT Young Scientist, the overall best project award at IT Tralee’s Sci Fest, and represented Kerry in the national finals, where it won the excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics award.
Jack was named Young Engineer of the Year at the Big Bang Science Fair in Belfast, his device won the junior overall project award at Tullamore Show and an innovation award and People’s Choice award at the National Ploughing Championships.
Once it has been patented, the next step for the tractor safe lock is production.
Jack says his biggest obstacle here will be getting investors because of his age.
“It’s hard at my young age to get it to the next step but if I had backers behind me it would definitely help,” he said.
The next step for the entrepreneurial teen is the Junior Cert and after his Leaving Cert he hopes to study engineering and develop more products to compliment the tractor safe lock.
Cathaoirleach of South and West Kerry, Séamus Cosaí Fitzgerald, said 22 lives had already been lost on Irish farms this year.
“Devices like Jack’s are very important and there’s great credit due to Jack coming up with an invention like this at such a young age,” he said.
The recipient said he was honoured to have been nominated for the award by independent councillor Michael Cahill.
“The people of this county really came behind me and I had great support over the last year and it’s an honour for me,” he said.
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