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Jury clears farm workers over Totnes ELO man's hay bale death

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 20, 2012

  • Michael Edwards of ELO

  • Brian Burden

  • Russell Williams

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Two men charged over the death of a former member of rock band Electric Light Orchestra who was killed by a bale of hay were yesterday found not guilty.

Brian Burden, 48, and Russell Williams, 23, were accused of failing to secure the massive bale, which smashed into Michael Edwards' van.

Mr Edwards', 62, a cellist with 1970s pop group ELO, died when the 63st bale, of either hay or silage, hit his car on September 3, 2010.

He was driving home when the large round bale rolled out of a field and jumped over a fence landing on his roof – killing him instantly.

Burden, a farmer of Bickleigh Farm, Halwell, and Williams, an agricultural contractor of Forces Cross, Blackawton, Devon, were accused of recklessly leaving the bale against a fence which collapsed allowing it to roll downhill.

They had both denied two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act, of failing to ensure people were not exposed to risk and failing to carry out a risk assessment.

The pair were found not guilty yesterday following a trial at Plymouth Crown Court. Speaking after the case, Mr Burden said: "First of all I would like to thank the jury for their consideration and my family and our friends who have given me their love and support during this difficult time.

"I would also like to thank my legal team from Kitsons and I know of course that the family and friends of Mr Michael Edwards are still grieving at his passing.

"Due to ongoing legal matters however I am unable to comment any further."

Mr Edwards played cello in the Electric Light Orchestra and had a string of hits in the 1970s.

He also spent time working as a music teacher but was working for a water company making deliveries at the time of his death.

He died when the half tonne bale crashed into his water bottle delivery van on the A381 between Harbertonford and Halwell, Devon. He suffered severe head injuries including deep lacerations to his face, haemorrhaging to the brain and a fractured jaw.

Mr Edwards played cello with the seven-piece ELO alongside Jeff Lynne from their first live gig in 1972 until he left in January 1975.

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