By Gordon Deegan

A farmer and another man have been returned for trial relating to alleged health-and-safety breaches concerning a fatal farm accident that claimed the life of a west-Clare farmer last year.

At Kilrush District Court, state solicitor for Clare, Aisling Casey served books of evidence on solicitors for farmer, John Roche of Doonaha, Kilkee and Christopher Keane of Bella, Kilkee arising from the alleged health-and-safety breaches connected to the death of a farmer at Doonaha, Kilkee on January 22, 2021.

Judge Mary Larkin returned both men for trial to the next sitting of Ennis Circuit Court.

Legal aid

Solicitor for Mr. Roche, Daragh Hassett, explained that his client had not applied for legal aid but is doing so now.

According to Mr. Hassett, John Roche, a full-time farmer, would qualify for such aid based on his income.

Legal aid was granted by Judge Larkin.

Judge Larkin told the accused men that if their defence is to rely on any alibi evidence, they have to provide details to the state within 14 days.

At the April hearing, Judge Larkin described the circumstances in which the man lost his life in a farm accident as “horrific”.

Outlining the state case, Ms. Casey said it involves a fatal incident that related to an excavation being dug at a farm premises at Doonaha, Kilkee.

Fatal farm accident

Ms. Casey stated that it will be alleged that Mr. Roche was the person in control of the farm, and he decided to construct an underground concrete slatted tank at the farm premises for the purpose of slurry storage.

Ms. Casey stated that this slurry storage was to be constructed at the location of an existing slurry storage tank that had been constructed 30 years ago.

She stated that Mr. Roche engaged the services of a contractor to build the tank – Christopher Keane – who had experience in this type of construction work.

Ms. Casey stated that the excavation to accommodate the tank was carried out a few days prior to the incident by workers employed by Mr. Keane.

She further alleged that on January 22, 2021 at around 12:00p.m, the farmer who owned the property “died as a result of injuries sustained when a pre-existing wall within the excavation, which had been dug to accommodate the slurry tank, collapsed on top of him”.

Solicitor for Mr. Roche, Daragh Hassett, told the court that his client wanted to put on the record that he expressed his condolences to the family of the man who died.

In the case, Mr. Roche is facing a summons of failing to appoint a competent project supervisor for the design process for the construction work carried out at the excavation, as required by the Health and Safety Act.

Mr. Keane is facing four separate summonses under the Health and Safety Act arising from the collapse of the sides of the excavation that allegedly resulted in the fatality.

Mr. Keane is accused of failing to take measures to ensure workers were not exposed to risks to their safety, in that the excavation at Doonaha was unsafe; and that no adequate measures were taken to prevent the collapse of the sides of the excavation on persons working within the excavation; and, as a consequence, the farm owner suffered fatal injuries.