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Listen: ‘No matter where you are on the farm, you can see where John died’

Donal and Winnie Kennedy’s son was just 25-years-old when a farm accident claimed his life.

During an interview on RTÉ Radio 1 earlier this week, Donal shared the series of events surrounding John’s tragic passing.

John completed a degree in engineering at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and later ventured to work on a farm in Australia for 18-months.

When he returned home to Ireland, he was offered a farm managerial position in Cork, where he remained for a number of years before returning to the family farm.

He began working on the family farm on a full-time basis in January 2017 and established a grass measuring business, but everything changed on March 15th, 2017 when he was assisting his father with a morning milking.

“The way it worked was he would go out, get the cows, change the strip wire and come on back and I’d start the cows.”

“He headed out on the quad bike that morning and I had milked two rows in the parlour in about 15-20 minutes, but there were no signs of the cows or him coming back.”


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Winnie was in the calf shed when Donal went to her to explain to her that “something was wrong”. He climbed into his tractor cab and began searching for John.

“I went out into the fields and went to the paddocks where the cows were in and could see no quad or him. I called him, but couldn’t find him.”

“There is actually a ravine, a little bit of a stream on the farm. I got down off the tractor, went over, heard nothing or saw nothing.”

“I went to the paddocks, there was a cow in front of me; she could have turned left to go home but she turned right and went back towards the ravine.”

Donal got down from the tractor to bring the cow back, but when he went down to the ravine, he could hear a quad running.

He believes that the very same cow, which John received as part of payment for work on another farm and led him to the ravine, was the exact animal that he “went after with the quad”.

“He [John] was actually wearing wellies with white soles that morning. Unfortunately, when I went back and heard the quad running, I saw the white soles in under the quad.”

The quad’s wheels were just sitting on the banks of the ravine and if he was alive, he would have been able to get out from underneath the quad, his father explained.

We had to carry him home halfway to meet the ambulance’

“I sort of had an idea that he was dead when I went to him. Winnie walked over and she kept shouting and screaming to keep working on him.”

“I did that. The other three lads came then, and we had to lift John up out of the ravine and into the field.”

Donal began performing CPR on John, while Colin, his youngest son, rang the ambulance. “We had to carry him home halfway to meet the ambulance.”

“There were two lads at his legs, I was with another son on his shoulders and Winnie was holding his head.” explained Donal who admitted that the remainder of the year was “a blur”.

Aftermath of accident

Speaking to Joe Duffy about the aftermath of the accident, Donal said: “I wanted to be with John. I had enough of this whole world.”

“I had to go and get counselling. I couldn’t milk cows. The three of them [sons] were the saviours of the farm.”

“No matter where you are on the farm, you can see where John died. This world is not built for burying your own child – they should bury you.” Donal added.

Full interview

To hear the full interview, click here.

File photo

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