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A WEX­FORD gravedig­ger who slipped on ice frac­tur­ing his an­kle dur­ing a fu­neral at Crosstown has been awarded over €50,000 by a High Court judge.

Mr Jus­tice Kevin Cross said gravedig­ger Nicky O’Brien struck him as a most de­cent in­di­vid­ual who did not ex­ag­ger­ate his in­juries and did not even men­tion to the court he has been left with scars.

Grave dig­ging, the judge said, is a noble vo­ca­tion and the grave­yard where the ac­ci­dent oc­curred - St Ibar’s - is a typ­i­cal old Ir­ish grave­yard which has haz­ards and is not laid out with pre­ci­sion and mil­i­tary grace as those in con­ti­nen­tal Europe.

The judge be­lieved the ac­ci­dent was caused by the slippy na­ture of the ground which was shel­tered by a head­stone. If there had been grit, the judge said this ac­ci­dent would have been avoided.

Mr Jus­tice Cross also re­jected there was con­trib­u­tory negligence on the part of Mr O’Brien.

‘He was not run­ning. He was wear­ing his work boots. He did noth­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate,’ Mr Jus­tice Cross stated. Mr Jus­tice Cross said he had been asked by the coun­cil to pre­fer the the­ory of­fered by a wit­ness from the Met Of­fice, who had ex­am­ined the re­ports and the data for the date in ques­tion, over the ev­i­dence of wit­nesses to the ac­ci­dent.

Mr Jus­tice Cross said he be­lieved the wit­nesses to the ac­ci­dent.

Mr O’Brien, from Wind­mill Heights, had told the court he was walk­ing away af­ter the grave of an el­derly woman had been cov­ered to be filled in later when his foot went and he fell.

‘I felt a crack in my foot. The path was slippy. It should have been salted and it wasn’t,’ said the 56 year old.

He said ru­mours that he fell into the grave were un­true.

Mr O’Brien had to have re­con­struc­tion surgery on his right an­kle and said he was out of work for about eight months af­ter the Jan­uary 8, 2009 ac­ci­dent.

James Flood, the care­taker in charge at the time of the in­ci­dent, said he had pre­vi­ously asked for grit for a New Year’s Eve fu­neral, but did not get it.

On that oc­ca­sion, mourn­ers had to get out and push the hearse, he said.

Mr Flood said he saw Mr O’Brien fall­ing and had called an am­bu­lance.

Mr Jus­tice Kevin Cross said the is­sue in the case was what caused Mr O’Brien’s fall and was it be­cause of the slippy na­ture of the ground be­cause of frost and ice. The judge ac­cepted that salt had been re­quested and a bag of sand at the ceme­tery had been ex­hausted.

Mr O’Brien, in his ev­i­dence, said he was sup­ported by the ceme­tery care­taker at the time and a mourner at the fu­neral. He awarded €40,000 for pain and suf­fer­ing to date and a fur­ther €10,000 for pain and suf­fer­ing in to the fu­ture with spe­cial dam­ages came to a to­tal of €50,850.

Nicky O’Brien clear­ing ice from the paths in Wex­ford town cen­tre in Novem­ber, 2011.

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