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Farmers Cleared of Wrongdoing in ELO Cellist’s Death

Michael Edwards Electric Light Orchestra
Michael Ochs Archives

Court proceedings have concluded surrounding the exceedingly bizarre death of former Electric Light Orchestra cellist Mike Edwards, with a pair of English farmers cleared of negligence in the events leading up to the tragedy.

The BBC reports that the court has pronounced Brian Burden and Russell Williams “not guilty of health and safety offenses” in the incident, which ended with Edwards being crushed by a 1,300-pound hay bale that “rolled down a field and landed on his van.”

At issue was the matter of whether Williams, who was working as a contractor for Burden, had failed to properly safeguard the bale, which he testified he’d left “halfway down the field.” While the dangers of runaway bales are apparently well enough known that baler manufacturers have issued warnings, the court felt proper measures had been taken, upholding the original ruling of an accidental death.

Following his untimely demise, Edwards’ family has put pressure on the British government to implement new rules and regulations in order to prevent future fatalities. Whatever happens next, however, Burden and Williams’ legal woes appear to be over.

A member of ELO from 1972-75, Edwards was present for some of the band’s biggest critical and commercial successes, including ‘Roll Over Beethoven,’ ‘Showdown,’ and ‘Can’t Get It Out of My Head.’ After departing the lineup, he became a disciple of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, changing his name to Swami Deva Pramada and living in an assortment of communes. At the time of his death, he was reportedly working for a water delivery company.

Edwards’ former bandmate Jeff Lynne paid tribute to him following his death, issuing a statement that read, “I still think about him on stage in his woollen balaclava playing his cello solo with an orange. Now that was pretty original. Mike was a great cellist but most of all a real gentleman.”

Next: More Strange Rock Deaths

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