East Ardsley mum told her son to “be careful” just minutes before his tragic death

Harry Whitlam who died in an accident at Swithens Farm, Rothwell.
Harry Whitlam who died in an accident at Swithens Farm, Rothwell.

An inquest has heard how the mother of a tragic youngster who died after he was hit by a tractor trailer on a farm, had told him to “be careful” just before he set off.

Harry Whitlam, 11, from East Ardsley, died from a traumatic head injury shortly after he was airlifted to Leeds General Infirmary on August 9 2013.

Swithens Farm where the accident happened.

Swithens Farm where the accident happened.

Lee Hudson, a local builder who had come to the farm to pick up supplies on that morning, explained to the coroner that he had almost hit Harry in his truck minutes before the accident.

He said: “It was unusual to see a young boy on the public road that I had seen him on.

“I had never seen a youngster on that part of the farm before.”

Harry, who has been described as a “happy young lad”, was hit by a slurry trailer attached to the back of a tractor reversing into a shed just after 9am.

Harry was playing on Swithens Farm in nearby Rothwell, where his mother Pamela Whitlam worked in the cafe on the day of the accident.

A statement from his mother was read out by the coroner that explained Harry had loved coming to the farm to help out after school and during holidays.

Harry was often been given jobs in the petting area and the barn by local farmhand, John Gill, such as collecting the eggs or feeding the animals.

Mrs Whitlam’s statement read: “Harry started to come to the farm after school at first but then he came to an open day and he made lots of new friends.

“He loved to come on a Saturday afternoon and help his friend Jack.

“He had a great time on the farm and was like John Gill’s shadow.

“He was not supervised but I thought he could be safe. He knew about danger.”

Speaking about the last time she saw her son, she recalled: “Just before 9am he came to the kitchen with John Gill - he came to get some sandwiches.

“The last thing I said to him was be careful.”

On the day of the tragedy, Harry had travelled to the farm with his mother in the morning because it was the school holidays.

In his evidence, Mr Gill - known locally as Ernie - said Harry was “really keen”.

Mr Gill said: “Harry always wanted to be doing something.

“He never stopped asking questions, he wanted to know what we were doing all the time and he liked helping.”

Harry was in the working part of the farm when he was struck by the tractor - an area which Mr Gill said the schoolboy had never been on before.

At the time of the accident, Mr Gill had pulled over in a JCB while the tractor reversed and saw Harry at the back of the vehicle.

Describing the terrifying moment to Leeds Coroners Court, he said: “The second I saw him I realised it was a hazard and there was a machine coming towards him.

“It was like Harry was oblivious to the machine being there.

“As soon as it happened, it was obvious that it was a very serious accident.”

The two-day inquest into the death of Harry, of Leeds, continues.