The parents of a toddler who was trampled by a cow are
pleased to be cleared of blame over the tragedy which claimed
their smiling little "daddy's boy''.
Jack Xavier Tatham was just under 2 years old when he died in
his parents' arms in Dunedin Hospital the day after a cow
stood on his head at their Invercargill farm in August last
A coroner has found neither his parents nor the doctors who
tried to save him were to blame for Jack's death from
irreversible brain swelling.
But the coroner also warned parents about the need to
supervise their young children constantly.
Parents Jimmy and Kerry Tatham had taken Jack with them to
the milking shed on their Waimatua farm - something they did
not usually do.
Jack, an active boy who could run and climb over gates,
played in a puddle while his parents attended to some newly
arrived cows in a pen next to the shed.
The parents then placed him in an enclosed room in the shed
so he would be safe while they went about other tasks.
Mr Tatham was not far off and could hear Jack "nattering'' to
himself happily, but when he returned, he found the room
He then noticed the cows were "spooked'' and saw his son
lying on the concrete pad inside the enclosure with cows.
Jack was unresponsive and clearly suffering from a head
injury with swelling to his left eye.
An ambulance took Jack to Invercargill Hospital before he was
transferred to the neurology ward at Dunedin Hospital.
Doctors concluded Jack could not survive his injuries and he
died in his parents' arms the following day.
Ms Tatham today said she was happy to be cleared of any blame
over his death.
"We're just trying to remember all the good things about him,
not what happened.''
She described Jack as a typical almost 2-year-old who "liked
to go out on the farm with dad - he was a daddy's boy''.
"He was always smiley and happy - his little smile would
light up the room. Even if you were having a bad day, if he
smiled or laughed or anything like that, it would make you
feel so much better.''
Jack was active and outgoing and would climb anything he
"You couldn't sit down and have a cup of coffee because he'd
be off doing something.''
Jack, who was named after his grandfather, left behind an
older sister - and four months ago, a little sister was born.
"It wasn't long after the tragedy that I actually found out I
was pregnant. So she's sort of helped in a way ... she was
our special gift afterwards.''
In his findings, Coroner David Crerar said it was clear Jack
had opened the door to the shed on his own and went almost
directly to where the cows were settling.
Jack was used to cows, having helped his mother feed them, so
he would have been unable to differentiate the ``skittish''
cattle from calves.
"He wandered in amongst the cows and either slipped, or was
knocked, to the ground. One of the cows stood on his head
creating the fatal injury.''
Coroner Crerar said while the parents were remiss for not
supervising Jack the whole time, they had left him in a room
where they knew he would be safe and were only seconds away
from being able to stop him from entering the yard.
He found neither the parents nor the medical staff who tried
to save him were to blame for Jack's death. No charges were
"The tragic circumstances of the death do, however, serve as
a lesson to all who have custody of vulnerable infants.
"A child who is unable to perform his, or her, own risk
assessment needs to be constantly supervised by a responsible
adult to ensure that no harm is created to them.''