Tractor pulling hearing

Preston Crown Court
Preston Crown Court
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AN AGRICULTURAL firm has admitted responsibility after a competitor was killed by a runaway sled at a tractor pulling festival.

Father-of-three Joannes van Aalphen died when a 30-tonne “weight box” on the sled struck his tractor at the Great Eccleston tractor pulling championships in 2007.

And at Preston Crown Court yesterday the company who operated the “Mighty Challenger” sled – A W Blake Ltd – admitted breaching two sections of the Health and Safety Act 1974.

The court heard the company, who hire out agricultural machinery, had failed to ensure “it had taken all reasonable and appropriate precautions” to prevent Mr van Aalphen’s health and safety being put at risk.

At the time the North West Tractor Pulling Club described the incident at the annual August Bank Holiday festival as a “freak accident”.

Andrew Blake, director of A W Blake Ltd, based near Carlisle, Cumbria, was found not guilty of personally breaching health and safety legislation after the prosecution offered no evidence against him.

The company – which the court heard could face a compensation claim of up to £550,000 from Mr van Aalphen’s family – is set to be fined for the offence, but the sentence was adjourned to allow investigations into its finances to be carried out.

A W Blake Ltd will appear before court again on June 6.