Northern Ireland

Harry Starrett, six, dies on family farm in Armagh

Harry Starrett
Image caption Harry Starrett died on his grandparents' farm on Tuesday

The sudden death of a six-year-old boy on a County Armagh farm was due to natural causes, not a farm accident, according to his family's minister.

Harry Starrett was found unconscious in a milking parlour on his grandparent's farm on Ballynahonemore Road, just outside Armagh city, on Tuesday.

An ambulance was called to the farm at 17:15 BST but the child died.

Canon John McKegney said preliminary results of a post mortem examination suggest the cause of death was natural.

He said the tests had ruled out initial reports that the child may have been overcome by slurry gases.

The death is still the subject of a farm investigation by the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI).

'Shocked'

Canon John McKegney, told the BBC: "It has been reported that it was fumes, but actually he wasn't anywhere near the slurry pit, he was in the milking parlour.

"Before the cattle came in he was pulling down the clusters, which is something he often did and helped his grandfather in that way.

"When his grandfather went in, just after him, he was lying unconscious and never recovered."

Canon McKegney is a retired minister from St Mark's Parish Church in Armagh and will conduct Harry's funeral later this week.

He described the child as a "bright, cheerful" boy.

"(He was) full of beans, full of life full of joy and someone who absolutely idolised the farm," he said.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of this young boy.

"My thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends at this difficult time."

'Devastated'

DUP councillor Freda Donnelly, who knows the family well, said: "Harry was a lovely, friendly, happy-go-lucky wee boy who just loved farming.

Image caption The farm on Ballynahonemore Road where the boy's body was found by his grandfather

"The family are very well known and highly respected in the area. Anyone I have spoken to is absolutely devastated. The death of a child is every parent's worst nightmare."

President of the Ulster Farmers Union Harry Sinclair said everyone was in a state of shock.

"Our thoughts go to that family and the whole agriculture community will be thinking of that family," he said.

Lord Mayor of Armagh Robert Turner said: "The entire area is in a state of shock that a six-year-old boy has lost his life," he said.

"I know his family and I wish to pass on my sincere condolences."

Cathal Boylan, who is an Sinn Féin MLA for the Newry and Armagh area, described the death as "an absolute tragedy".

"Both I and my Sinn Féin colleagues, and indeed the whole community, will be thinking of this child's family in the days and weeks ahead," he said.