A CATTLE handler died after being crushed by a bull when it was being loaded into a wagon at a cattle market.

The 70-year-old man, named locally as John Leverton, who was known as ‘Martin’ to his family and friends, was working with a lorry driver when the fatal accident happened today.

The former farmer, who had been working at Gisburn Auction Marts Ltd in Gisburn Road was described by his family as ‘a wonderful man’ who had been ‘doing the job he loved’.

Richard Turner, secretary and auctioneer of Gisburn Auction Marts Ltd said Mr Leverton had worked as a member of the yard staff for more than 20 years and was a good and well liked member of staff.

He said: “We are all very emotional and in a state of shock.

“It is a terrible tragedy.

“The driver of the wagon was very, very distraught. As far as we are concerned everything was in order.

“We follow strict guidelines laid down by the National Farming Union.

“We expect a health and safety and a police investigation.”

The incident happened shortly before 7.30am today.

The bull had been stored overnight, fed and watered, ready for it to be picked up following a sale on Thursday.

Mr Leverton’s son, Ian, said on Facebook: “A wonderful man, husband to Audrey, dad, pops, granddad and friend, my dad Martin Leverton (John) who was seriously injured while doing the job he loved and passed away this morning. RIP dad.”

Police and ambulance crews were on site for a couple of hours following the accident.

Community leaders and neighbouring businesses described the incident as an ‘awful tragedy’.

Lukeman Patel, manager of the neighbouring 77 Garage, said: “This morning there were two police cars, an ambulance and a helicopter.

“Somebody came into the store and said there was an incident at the Auction Mart.

“The wife of the man who died came into the garage and asked me what has happened and I told her there was an incident. She then ran out the store.

“I am very sorry for what happened.

“I knew the man. He was well liked. More than 99 per cent of people knew him here and he was very popular.

“He came in every morning to pick up the papers.”

Mrs Rose, the wife of the foreman who works at the Auction Mart, said: “Nothing like this has happened here before.

“You do not expect this type of incident in this day and age.”

Nigel Evans, Ribble Valley MP, said: “It is an awful tragedy. My condolences go to his family. I know the police will carry out a full investigation into this death.

“In my 25 years an MP I haven’t heard of anything like this happening at the mart and I believe it has a good safety record despite many people attending the sales.

“I hope any recommendations from the police will be quickly taken on board.”

The Health and Safety Executive said they were aware of the incident and were investigating.

A police spokesman said: “We were called around 7.30am following reports a man had been seriously injured in Gisburn.

“A 70-year-old man had been injured by a bull at Gisburn Auction Mart in Gisburn Road.

“Emergency services attended but sadly the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

“An investigation is underway and the Health and Safety Executive has been informed.

“This is being treated as a non-suspicious death and a file will be submitted to the coroner.”