26-year-old man Nathan Atkinson died in hay bale tragedy, inquest hears

A MAN in his twenties died after being trapped between a 500kg hay bale and the wall of a barn in a tragic farming accident, an inquest heard.

Nathan Atkinson, 26, died on his parents’ farm at Lowick in December 2019.

Mr Atkinson, who was born in Barrow and attended Coniston Primary School, was a keen cricketer, serving as captain, secretary and treasurer of Coniston Cricket Club during his life.

In a statement read at the inquest, dad Timothy paid tribute to his son, who lived about a mile away from his parents’ farm, saying: “He had a huge passion for life and so much to give.

“All he ever did was help people. He left a huge hole in his wake with his family missing him desperately.

“He’s remembered for his smile which he always wore.”

Cockermouth Coroner’s Court heard how, on the day he died, Mr Atkinson’s partner Katherine Mackintosh became concerned after she contacted him to see if he had delivered a parcel for her but received no reply.

“I had a very bad feeling in my gut at this stage and, even though it wasn’t unusual for Nathan to not reply to me, I left work early,” said Miss Mackintosh.

She phoned Dallam School at Milnthorpe, where Mr Atkinson worked as a boarding house parent, and found out he had not turned up for his shift that afternoon.

Enlisting the help of another farmer, Miss Mackintosh searched for Mr Atkinson at his parents’ farm, which trades under the name Crake Valley Meats. It was customary for Mr Atkinson to do some work on the farm after finishing a night shift at the school.

Miss Mackintosh said she eventually noticed her partner under a hay bale.

Mr Atkinson had been pushed up against the back of the barn by a hay bale that had apparently fallen.

Thomas Wright, watch manager with Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, said attempts to remove the hay bales using a tractor were unsuccessful and those in attendance resorted to removing the straw by hand.

Death was formally diagnosed at 4.24pm.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) attended the incident site the following day and said the evidence suggested the bales, which weighed between 400 and 500kg, were stacked ‘in accordance with HSE guidance’.

As Mr Atkinson was on his own when it happened, the exact circumstances that led to his death are unknown.

Craig Smith, assistant coroner for Cumbria, accepted the cause of death offered by the pathologist of 1a – asphyxia and brain stem haemorrhage and 1b – compression of the thorax. He concluded that Mr Atkinson’s death was an accident.

The Westmorland Gazette | News