Wallace Gregg farms at the Frosses, just north of Ballymena. He is one of Northern Ireland’s most prominent pedigree Holstein breeders.
A love for agriculture is in Wallace’s blood and even the briefest of visits to the farm will help confirm that his two sons – James (12) and Simon (9) - are chips off the old block, where farming is concerned.
Like most families, the Greggs would have always put a strong emphasis on maintaining the best possible health and safety standards while at work on the farm – but never really thinking that a serious accident could befall them.
However, everything changed in that regard just days before Halloween in 2015. Wallace takes up the story:
“It was the first day of the half term holiday for the two boys. I needed to get a tractor repaired. But, first off, I had to get a low loader from Cloughmills to allow me take the tractor to the mechanic.
“I decided to take James and Simon with me for the trip, which meant that all three of us got into the cab of a Massey Ferguson, that was also on the farm. Off we headed for Cloughmills. Simon was seated beside me and James was standing in the cab.
“Cloughmills is only a few minutes’ drive from the farm. Just as we came up to the 30mph sign for the town, the tractor hit a bump on the road. James stumbled and fell against the door of the cab.
“In less than a heart beat the door had opened and James fell on to the road. When I got to him, he was lying semi-conscious. I just couldn’t believe how quickly everything had happened.”
Wallace admitted that he immediately went into reaction mode.
“I knew there was a health centre about 600m down the road. So I lifted James up and took him there.
“That was the wrong thing to do. With a head injury, I could have created more problems simply by moving him. But I wasn’t thinking.
“Once in the health centre, an ambulance was called for and James was taken to Antrim Area Hospital. The doctors in Antrim put James into an induced coma, after which he was taken to the Children’s Hospital in Belfast. He spent a period of time in intensive care.”
Thankfully, James made a full recovery and was allowed home eight days after the accident. But Wallace still lives with the shock of how events unfolded so quickly.
“One second James was in the cab of the tractor: the next he was lying on the road. A Health and Safety Executive inspector visited the farm a few days after the accident.”
Wallace continued: “Thankfully James made a full recovery. In the wake of the accident, I fitted seat belts to the seats in the cab of the tractor.
“Accidents happen because the people involved don’t have the time or opportunity to react. What happened to us has brought home to me the importance for farmers to think safety at all times.”