Vehicle narrowly misses Colyton house as it careers down a steep hill with only Molly the Collie in the driving seat

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A runaway tractor narrowly missed smashing into a house after the brakes failed and it careered down a steep hill – with only the farmer’s Collie dog in the driving seat.

Henry Selway had parked at the top of a slope in a residential area of Colyton, while he joined his daughter for lunch, leaving his faithful hound waiting in the cab.

But while the 77-year-old was eating his meal, the handbrake on his Ford 7840 tractor failed and the vehicle hurtled down the road – with Molly the dog helpless in the front seat.

The tractor sped across the road, broke through a garden fence, and came to rest just feet from a neighbouring property.

Thankfully the homeowners were away on holiday at the time, but were relieved when they returned to learn their home had escaped unscathed.

He said: “I’ve been driving tractors since I was 14, and that day I parked my tractor as I always do – with the handbrake on and the wheels turned inwards.

“I only became aware of the incident when a scaffolder shouted over to me that the tractor was rolling off with my dog inside. I couldn’t believe it.”

The tractor was found on its side in the garden with Molly unhurt and the handbrake still on.

Now the case is being highlighted by Henry’s insurance company, Cornish Mutual, to help raise awareness of the need for farmers to ensure their vehicles are regularly serviced and maintained.

Although tractors do not require an MOT by law, the majority of motor insurance policies state that all reasonable precautions must be taken to keep the insured vehicle in a proper state of repair. Vehicles should be well maintained so that their insurance cover remains valid.

A spokesman said: “In this case, Henry did put the handbrake on and leave his vehicle in a safe position, but accident investigators highlighted that the age of the vehicle, and the cold weather conditions that day, might have resulted in the handbrake failing.”

Henry said: “The tractor caused quite a bit of damage, but thankfully no one was injured and the damage to the property was limited to the owner’s fence and a number of trees, which were replaced. I grew up leaving my tractor in gear as the ultimate failsafe, but with these new tractors you can’t do that.”

Alan Goddard, managing director for Cornish Mutual, said: “There is no suggestion that Henry was at fault here, but it is a timely reminder that these things can happen. By making people aware of this incident we can highlight the need for farmers to make sure their vehicles are in the best condition they can be.”

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