Firefighter charged after farmer trampled to death

A firefighter was charged with manslaughter today after a farmer was trampled to death by cows allegedly startled by a fire engine.

Harold Lee, 75, was riding a quad bike at the back of the 100-strong dairy herd as he and son Richard were taking the animals to be milked on August 11 last year.

Firefighter Julian Lawford, 49, was charged with manslaughter following an Avon and Somerset Police investigation.

He has been bailed to appear before Taunton Dean Magistrates Court on March 25, police said.

A Devon and Somerset Fire Service spokesman said: "Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service can confirm that they have suspended a firefighter who has today been charged with an offence of manslaughter relating to an incident involving a fire appliance on August 11 2009.

"As this matter will now proceed through the criminal courts we are not able to comment further.

"The thoughts of the service remain with Mr Lee's family at this difficult time."

Mr Lee was left in a critical condition after suffering head and chest injuries in the stampede. He was airlifted to Royal United Hospital, Bath, after the incident before being transferred to Frenchay, Bristol.

It is understood the fire engine met the pair on their way to Robins Farm, Burtle, in Somerset.

Last year Avon and Somerset Police confirmed they were investigating the possibility that the herd was alarmed by the fire engine's sirens.