TRIBUTES have been paid to the 50-year-old farm worker who died in a horrific accident that has “rocked the community.”

The man, who had two children, died after the heavy machinery he was driving plunged into a slurry pit on Westcombe Farm in Hooke, near Beaminster, on Wednesday morning.

The worker, who has not been named, was transferring heavy slurry from one pit to another when his JCB vehicle fell into the pit and became almost completely submerged.

Emergency Services were called by fellow farm workers just after 8am, and it is believed the man was in the pit for more than an hour before his body could be pulled out.

Gilbert Berry, chairman of Beaminster Town Council, said: “It's absolutely terrifying, it's a tragic accident.

“I find it horrifying that these things still happen in this modern age, and all of my thoughts go out to the man's friends and family.

“Everybody knows everybody in the farming community around here and it has rocked the community and I am sure everyone is horrified by what has happened.”

An investigation has been launched by Dorset Police and the Health and Safety Executive into the accident, and the coroner will open an inquest in to the man's death next week.

James Wallbridge, 20, chairman of the Beaminster Young Farmers Club, lives and works on the farm next to Westcombe Farm.

Mr Wallbridge said: “It's pretty tragic and it is quite scary to hear about it with it being this close to home.

“I cannot think of a worse way to go.

“It does bring it home to you how dangerous it can be in this industry. We take risks every day but you just don't think about it that much and there are so many different types of slurry lagoons.

“It has scared me a bit to be honest, and I think it has scared a few others as well.”

Paul Bennett, West Dorset branch secretary for NFU Mutual, said: “It's a terrible accident.

“It's a dreadfully tragic accident and all of our thoughts go out to the family and friends of this man.

“The industry hasn't got a good record in terms of accidents and this type of incident does reinforce the need for all farmers to keep alert of the risks and to take steps to avoid these accidents.

“Everybody is shocked by it because it is so close to home and it is the usual thing that people think it's not going to happen in our area, so everybody has been shocked by it.”

Guy Smith, vice president of the National Farmers Union, has issued safety advice for farmers following the accident.

Mr Smith said: “Deaths from slurry gas still occur and these are made all the more tragic by the fact that so many people die who instinctively go to the aid of those in difficulty.

“If there is a problem, stop the pump, get the person to fresh air, but don't put yourself at risk, call 999 and advise the emergency services that slurry gas may be present.”