Vintage rally day out turned into a tragedy as tractor rolled backwards and mounted a bank, causing it to turn upside down.
A BARNSTAPLE business woman was killed in a tragic accident when the vintage tractor she was driving toppled over, an inquest heard.
Faye Stockwell, from Barnstaple, was driving the Massey Ferguson tractor up the steep North Buckland Hill near Braunton on October 2, 2011, when the incident occurred.
The inquest today (Mon) heard the 34-year-old had taken part in a vintage tractor run with her mother, Kathy Stockwell, as a passenger.
The tractor belonged to her mother’s partner, Anthony Barrable, who was driving an identical Massey Ferguson tractor ahead of them.
Mr Barrable said: “Faye was very keen to take part in the rally.
“I wouldn’t have been able to stop her; if she’d not used my tractor she would have gone off to find another one to use.”
After driving in a convoy with 40-50 other vehicles from Pilton Park to West Down, the group broke for lunch and Faye’s mother, who was undergoing cancer treatment at the time, said she was tired and wished to go home.
On the journey back, they went up the steep North Buckland hill, which they had driven up earlier without incident, when tragedy stuck.
Deputy Coroner John Tomalin said it was unclear exactly what had happened, but it appeared Faye had probably missed a gear change and the engine had stalled.
Caroline Slade, who was sat in a field nearby, said she had heard the ‘crunch of gears’ and then the sound of female voices.
The 1.2 tonne tractor began to roll backwards and mounted the steep bank, causing it to topple over.
Mrs Stockwell was thrown from the vehicle as it turned upside down while Miss Stockwell was trapped beneath it.
Mr Barrable rushed to help after seeing Mrs Stockwell stood in the road waving her arms ‘hysterically’, but could not move the tractor from on top of Miss Stockwell.
He said: “I felt totally hopeless.
“It had gone from fantastic to not knowing what to do in a matter of moments.”
Miss Stockwell was pronounced dead by paramedics who rushed to the scene and a post mortem report concluded she had died as a result of traumatic asphyxia.
Vehicle examinations by collision investigator PC Glyn Griffin and police forensic vehicle inspector John Snow showed the brakes were not running as efficiently as they could be and there was some oil contamination on one of the brake drums.
PC Griffin and Mr Snow concluded due to the weight of the tractor, Miss Stockwell probably would not have been able to stop it rolling backwards down the 12-degree slope by applying full pressure to the brakes.
Mr Tomalin recognised these were all significant factors but ruled a verdict of accidental death.
Miss Stockwell’s sisters Lisa Holman and Joanne Couch attended the inquest along with her father’s wife Susan Ward and Mr Barrable.
Miss Stockwell, who was managing director of Neon Print at the Old Ice Factory in Barnstaple, was described as a keen animal lover who loved spending time with her four dogs and two horses.
She was not married and had no children but was described as a determined lady who knew what she wanted.
Mrs Stockwell said: “From that moment on my life changed beyond all recognition.
“I relive the last moments of my daughter’s life every minute of every day.”