James Higgins died on January 19, 2008, when he fell into a soak pit on the family farm near Shannonbridge in Offaly. Now his father Padraig has urged fellow farmers to learn from his family’s tragic story with the simple message — “a farmyard is not a playground”.
The part-time farmer and Bord na Mona employee, his wife and James’ brothers, Colm, Anthony and Darrell, have spoken about their loss on video to raise awareness about safety risks on farms.
The number of deaths on farms already this year is 28 — more than double the 12 recorded last year.
Recalling the day he lost his son, Padraig said it was a day the family “will never forget”.
“That day he had to collect his glasses and went down to his grandfather to show them. His grandfather was only about 50m away from the house and it was a regular occurrence for him to go down to see him. He didn’t make it that day. When Joan (James’s mother) went down he hadn’t been there.”
“She had been searching around and there was no sign of him. There was a hole dug in the garden for a soak pit and there was some water in it and we saw the little green knitted cap that he would have been wearing normally and it was floating around on the top of it. We thought there was something strange here,” he said.
A short ladder was fetched and James’ brother Colm climbed down into the freezing cold water.
“I’d say I had to go up and down three or four times ‘cause the water was that cold. I was fully convinced he wasn’t in it and said I would go down just one more turn to be certain. Whatever way my hand just turned, I caught his jumper and brought him up. The panic started then,” said James’s brother Colm.
Padraig warned farmers to be vigilant as an accident can happen “in a split second”.
The video, which can be viewed on the Embrace Farm website www.embracefarm.com, is the second in the ‘What’s Left Behind’ series produced by Embrace FARM, an organisation which provides support to families bereaved by farm accidents.