A farming company has denied endangering the life of a lorry driver from Copplestone who was electrocuted in an accident almost two years ago.

Patrick Rice, aged 43, who was known as Paddy by his family and friends, died after the lorry he was using touched power lines when he was working at Spreyton, near Okehampton, on May 13, 2021.

 The much loved father-of-three was such a popular figure at work and in his community that crowds lined the streets of Crediton and Copplestone for his funeral service in June 2021.

He was six foot six tall and described as a larger than life character who was the life and soul of the party.

The accident happened on land operated by a company called VB Farms which has a registered address in Chester but has bases at Crediton and at Little Coombe Farm, Spreyton.

 The company denied a single offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act when they appeared at Exeter Magistrates Court on Wednesday April 26.

 The company, of St Johns Chambers, Love Street, Chester, denied that on May 13, 2021, at non-domestic premises at the Spreyton Estate, Crediton, Devon , being an employer they failed to discharge the duty to which you were subject by virtue of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 reg.3.

 The charge specifies that a work activity was carried out near an electrical system, namely overhead power lines, in such a manner as to give rise to danger, thereby exposing Patrick Simon Rice and others to the risk of death .

 The alleged offence is contrary to section 33(1)(c) and Schedule 3A of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

 The company chose to have the case tried at Exeter Magistrates' Court and the case was adjourned for a trial hearing on August 16 this year.

 Paddy’s family and employers both released tributes to him after his death.

 The family said: “We are beyond heartbroken at the tragic loss of our much loved son, brother and father Paddy Rice. He was taken away from us whilst doing a job he loved, and without any warning, which makes it all the more difficult for us to comprehend.

“He had found true happiness with his partner Michele and they were looking forward to many years together as a couple. He was very proud of his three children, Jack (16),  Maisie (14), and Lily (12), and they will miss him more than words can say. 

 “Paddy loved a party and he was well-known around the pubs of Crediton, talking and laughing with everyone he met! When Covid restrictions are lifted we will hold a big party to remember him in the spirit that he would have wanted.”

 His employers, Langford Plant Hire, said at the time of the accident: “It is with great sadness that we lost one of our drivers in a tragic accident yesterday. We are truly heartbroken by his loss as he was not just a respected and valued part of our team but a great friend.

 “He will leave an enormous hole in our hearts and will always be greatly missed but will forever be remembered for the kind, humorous, wonderful man that he was.  Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”