Shep­herd’s death ‘could not have been pre­vented’

In­quiry: Cause of fa­tal ac­ci­dent on cliff-top un­known, sher­iff de­ter­mines

The Press and Journal (Highlands & Islands) - - NEWS - BY ANN MACK

The cause of an ac­ci­dent at a cliff-top field last year which led to the death of a High­land shep­herd is un­known and was un­avoid­able, a sher­iff has said.

Sandy Rob­bins was gath­er­ing in sheep when the quad bike he was rid­ing went through a fence and over the 60ft-high cliff at Kyle of Dur­ness in Suther­land.

The 61-year-old sus­tained mul­ti­ple in­juries as a re­sult of the ac­ci­dent and died later the same day in Raig­more Hospi­tal, In­ver­ness.

At the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the fa­tal ac­ci­dent in­quiry into Mr Rob­bins’s death, Sher­iff Christo­pher Dick­son said he was “a con­sci­en­tious worker who worked with­out com­plaint and knew the land well”.

He added that there were “no rea­son­able pre­cau­tions” that could have pre­vented the tragedy.

The ac­ci­dent hap­pened on March 31, 2016, when Mr Rob­bins, who was a shep­herd at Rhigolter Farm, Dur­ness, was gath­er­ing young ewes which had spent the win­ter at Cape Side, Achiemore.

The field, in Cliff Park near Daill House, has a wire fence with wooden posts set a few feet away from the cliff edge.

For an un­known rea­son, Mr Rob­bins’s quad bike hit the fence and the bike went over, fall­ing to the rocky beach be­low.

The shep­herd was not wear­ing a hel­met at the time of the ac­ci­dent.

Am­bu­lance staff and a Coast­guard he­li­copter were called to the scene.

He was winched aboard but en route to Raig­more Hospi­tal he suf­fered a car­diac ar­rest.

A de­fib­ril­la­tor was used to restart his heart on two oc­ca­sions, but he later died in hospi­tal.

The in­quiry heard ear­lier that the front off­side brake of the quad bike was in­op­er­a­ble at the time of the ac­ci­dent and that Mr Rob­bins did not re­ceive any for­mal train­ing in the use of the bike. But the sher­iff said: “Mr Rob­bins had driven the same bike over ter­rain prior to the ac­ci­dent and would likely have been re­quired to op­er­ate the brakes.

“In the end, given that the cause of the ac­ci­dent is un­known, I am un­able to say whether this did in fact cause or con­trib­ute to the ac­ci­dent.”

The sher­iff also said: “As quad bikes have some

“Con­sci­en­tious worker who worked with­out com­plaint”

pe­cu­liar­i­ties in their op­er­a­tion and han­dling, it is of par­tic­u­lar im­por­tance that they should only be driven by peo­ple who have re­ceived the ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing and that em­ploy­ers should as­sess their com­pe­tence to drive them.”

He con­cluded: “At the out­set of the in­quiry, I ex­tended my con­do­lences to Mr Rob­bins’s fam­ily. I wish to for­mally re­peat my con­do­lences to them in this de­ter­mi­na­tion.”

CAR­DIAC AR­REST: Sandy Rob­bins sus­tained mul­ti­ple in­juries in the ac­ci­dent and died later in hospi­tal

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