One year on: Alistair Sloss’ daughter relives the day a slurry tragedy took her father’s life
This time last year, one Tyrone family’s lives changed forever when dairy farmer Alistair Sloss was killed in a farm accident just one day before the slurry ban deadline.
One year on, his 20-year-old daughter Rebekah tells AgriLand how the family struggled to cope on the farm without him and how she wants to raise awareness so that other families do not have to go through the same ordeal.
To mark the first anniversary of his death, the family has planned a tractor run in his memory to take place this afternoon to raise money for the Christian charity, Tearfund.
Rebekah’s older brother Jonathan had been working on the farm when he spotted Alistair’s wellies in the slurry tank and raised the alarm. Despite investigations, his death remains a mystery.
“It’s been a very emotional two weeks,” she said. “This time of year brings back a lot of memories.
Like any farmer, my dad would have taken a lot of care. He was a father of five children so he would never have taken any risks.
Rebekah explained that it’s not known what caused the accident; all the family know is that at 3:30pm Alistair (52) had been at a local garage buying machinery parts, but by 4:45pm Jonathan was phoning his mum to say what had happened.
‘I didn’t know a thing about farming until this time last year’
After Alistair’s death, the family tried to keep the farm going but soon found out just how much pressure he had been under as a farmer.
“We really struggled with the farm,” Rebekah said. “My mum runs an insurance business and my siblings were all at school.
“At that time we were finding it so hard to cope with our grief as well – it was too difficult to juggle everything so we sold our dairy cows in August.
We just couldn’t keep up with it at all – between November last year and August our lives were nothing but cows; I don’t honestly how farmers do it – and I honestly don’t know how my dad did it.
“My dad had been very seriously injured a couple of years ago and even with that he still kept everything going on the farm – I really don’t know how he kept up with it at all; it’s just such hard work.
“He had been fixing a pipe in a shed and he had a really bad fall and he had to get all sorts of surgery over in London. But he just loved farming – he absolutely loved it and just carried on.
“My older brother would have helped on the farm but the rest of us were all very school-orientated and knew nothing about farming – to be perfectly honest, I didn’t know a thing about farming until this time last year,” she said.
On the anniversary of Alistair’s death – October 14 – and also the last day before this year’s slurry ban, two farmers in Fintona, Co. Tyrone, were hospitalised after they were overcome by slurry fumes.
“It’s a bit of a pattern,” Rebekah added. “It always seems to be that something happens on the last day – there’s so much pressure on farmers.
“I was thinking about what we would do [to remember my dad] during the summer. We just wanted to do something to mark the anniversary and we thought that a tractor run would be appropriate. My daddy was very fond of machinery so we thought it would be quite fitting to hold one.
“We have had a lot of support from the community, it has been really nice to see just how well-liked and respected my dad must have been.”
Registration for the tractor run starts at the Sloss’ farm in Coagh, Co. Tyrone at 2:00pm. Tractors leave the farm at 3:00pm. Further information can be found on the Alistair Sloss Memorial Tractor Run page.
Alistair is survived by his wife Roberta and five children Jonathan (23), Rebekah (20), Sarah (17), David (15) and Naomi (9).
Farming remains the most dangerous industry in Northern Ireland. In 2016 the Northern Ireland Health and Safety Executive (HSENI) recorded eight instances in which farmers had been killed as a result of their work.
The number sits up from 2015 when six people were killed on Northern Ireland farms.