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Derbyshire farmer died inside tank of cow manure

A Derbyshire farmer died after falling in a slurry tank on his own farm, an inquest heard.

John Edward Furness was trying to retrieve a fallen pipe inside the cylindrical 15ft-deep tank when he fell into the slurry.

The tank, which holds up to 5,000 gallons of cow manure. was buried partially underground, and was accessible via a hatch on the top which was bolted down to prevent anyone accidentally falling into it.

The incident took place at Oddo House Farm, Elton, near Matlock, which was owned by Mr Furness.

Max Harrop, an agricultural contractor working on the farm, told the hearing that the pipe acted as a straw to suck the manure from the slurry pit into a vehicle to spread the manure on a field.

Mr Harrop said the pipe had become disconnected and fallen into the slurry tank. He called Mr Furness who said he would sort it out.

Described as “set in his ways” Mr Furness refused to wear a mask or breathing apparatus as he entered the slurry pit through the hatch, even though there was a high risk of toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide being inside.

Mr Furness began to descend the ladder and had only been in the tank for five seconds before Mr Harrop heard a splash and saw him floating unresponsive in the one foot of slurry left in the tank.

The emergency services were called, and Mr Furness’ family managed to pull his body out of the slurry pit with the use of strings before attempting CPR.

An air ambulance arrived, and Mr Furness was taken to Northern General in Sheffield where his condition deteriorated and he sadly died early the next morning on June 15, 2021.

In a hospital report it stated that Mr Furness had suffered aspiration of slurry causing a cardiac arrest and lung damage.

The medical cause of death was given as diffuse cerebral hypoxic injury with aspiration pneumonitis, as well as a treated cardiac arrest within the context of an immersion injury.

As the incident took place at work a jury inquest was held.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation report found that Mr Furness operated under his own experience and that there was guidance available on managing slurry in farms.

This guidance included never entering the tank unless trained and using breathing apparatus.

The jury came to a conclusion that Mr Furness’ death was misadventure.

Read more Derbyshire inquests

A spokesperson for the jury said: “Mr Furness used a ladder to climb into a slurry pit to retrieve a pipe. He did not wear appropriate protective equipment or breathing apparatus and was quickly overcome by gases.

“He slipped into the slurry pit and was taken to the Northern General Hospital where his condition deteriorated and he died.”

Mr Furness’ inquest was held at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court on February 16.

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