A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE farmer was crushed to death against a gate by his own tractor — after his dog knocked a lever to make the vehicle move forward, an inquest heard.
Entrepreneur Derek Mead, 70, left the JCB farm loader with the engine running as he was building a rockery.
But an inquest heard he left his pet Jack Russell in the cab of the vehicle and the animal knocked a lever, which started the machine moving.
The lever in the Manitou farming vehicle — which is similar to a forklift truck — is as easy to turn on as a car indicator and the dog may have jumped up to see where his master had gone, the inquest heard.
Derek, a father-of-three, was crushed against the gate and suffered a fractured vertebrae and traumatic asphyxia.
Paramedics tried to save him but he died at the scene.
Derek, who owned border collies and terriers, had been building a rockery around a large pond in his garden on June 4, 2017, when the accident happened.
Son Alistair, who cried throughout the one-hour hearing, found Mr Mead trapped against the gate and unresponsive.
In a statement read to the court, he said: ‘Dad was crouched down facing the machine with his back to the gate as if he had seen the machine coming towards him and ducked to avoid it.’
Summing up, assistant coroner Dr Peter Harrowing said: ‘Mr Mead was very experienced in the using the piece of equipment.
‘The most likely explanation is that the dog inadvertently moved the shuttle lever, causing Mr Mead to be trapped against the gate.
‘The death of Mr Derek Mead was one of a very tragic accident.’
Mr Mead’s brother Roger was killed 30 years ago when his tractor overturned while he was out working on his land.
Derek, who died at his farm The Laurels in the village of Puxton, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, was a leading businessman and a major landowner in the area.
He was the managing director of Mead Realisations, which owns Puxton Park. He also owned the Sedgemoor Auction Centre at junction 24 of the M5.
He was also a long-term member of the National Farmers’ Union before resigning in 2010 in a protest at what he said was its failure to support dairy farmers.
Mr Mead farmed around 3,000 acres in North Somerset and also owned racehorses.