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Philip Evans


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Friday, 24 January 2014

FARMER’S dog Molly the collie had a close call when she was left in a tractor, which hurtled down a road in Colyton after its handbrake failed.
The runaway tractor narrowly missed crashing into a house after the brakes failed and it careered down a steep residential road in Colyton, with only Molly in the diver’s seat.
Farmer Henry Selway had parked his Ford 7840 tractor at the top of the hill while he joined his daughter for lunch in the town, leaving his dog waiting in the vehicle's cab. But while the 77-year-old ate lunch, the tractor's handbrake failed and the vehicle hurtled down the steep road with helpless Molly in the front seat.
The tractor sped across the road, broke through a garden fence and came to rest just feet from a neighbouring property. The homeowners were away on holiday at the time, but were relieved when they returned to learn their home had escaped unscathed, despite the near miss.
Mr Selway learnt about the runaway tractor from a local scaffolder who witnessed the incident.
He said: "I've been driving tractors since I was 14 and that day I parked my tractor as I always do - with the handbrake on and the wheels turned inwards.
"I only became aware of the incident when a scaffolder shouted over to me that the tractor was rolling off with my dog inside. I couldn't believe it."
The tractor was found on its side in the garden of the undamaged property, with Molly the dog unhurt and the tractor handbrake still on.
No one was injured, and Mr Selway’s insurance company, Cornish Mutual, was able to manage the clear up as part of the Agricultural Motor Vehicle Policy that the farmer has with the company. The incident took place in September but only came to light after the insurance claim was recently settled. Cornish Mutual now hopes the runaway tractor incident will help raise awareness of the need for farmers to ensure their vehicles are regularly serviced and maintained.
Although tractors do not require an MOT by law, the majority of motor insurance policies state that all reasonable precautions must be taken to keep the insured vehicle in a proper state of repair. Vehicles should be well maintained so that their insurance cover remains valid.
In this case, Mr Selway did put the handbrake on and leave his vehicle in a safe position, but accident investigators highlighted that the age of the vehicle, and the cold weather conditions that day, might have resulted in the handbrake failing.
Mr Selway added: "The tractor caused quite a bit of damage, but thankfully no one was injured and the damage to the property was limited to the owner's fence and a number of trees, which were replaced. I grew up leaving my tractor in gear as the ultimate failsafe, but with these new tractors you can't do that."
Alan Goddard, managing director for Cornish Mutual, said: "Thankfully no one was injured in this extraordinary case and the property affected only suffered superficial damage. However, by making people aware of this incident we can highlight the need for farmers to make sure their vehicles are in the best condition they can be. There is no suggestion that Henry was at fault here, but it is a timely reminder that these things can happen."

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