Shropshire Star

Farm worker crushed by falling tree died in accident, inquest concludes

An inquest jury has reached a unanimous conclusion that an experienced farm worker died as the result of an accident when a tree fell on him.

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The Shirehall. Shrewsbury..

The jury of 10 men and women concluded that the ash tree being worked on by Trevor Kenneth Jones, an arable operator known as Ken, had probably "fishtailed" - or side swiped him - when he was chopping down trees at Serpent Farm off Lower Barnes Road in Ludlow on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

Nearly a day of inquest deliberations held on Monday heard that Mr Jones was not a professional chainsaw operator. The coroner's court was told that his many qualifications - including in using a chainsaw - did not mean that he was legally responsible for what was happening.

An official from the Health & Safety Executive attended the proceedings.

The court heard from two men who had been working with Mr Jones on the day of the fatal accident.

Gardener and handyman Keith Hodnett had been with Chris Gittins and Mr Jones on the fourth week of a job thinning the number of trees at the site to deal with ash dieback.

Senior coroner John Ellery was told that 54-year-old Mr Jones had cut down about 100 trees during his time of three weeks of working on the site. And on the day in question he was already dealing with his third tree.

Mr Hodnett, who had been using a noisy wood chipping machine, said: "I looked back and I could not see Ken. Then I saw his orange helmet on the floor. The tree was on top of his upper body.

"I knew he was in a bad way, I knew he was badly hurt."

At about 9.05am Mr Hodnett called over Mr Gittins, of DT Gittins, who had been operating a piece of farm machinery that was large enough to move the tree from their friend.

Mr Jones was given CPR by his colleagues until an air ambulance arrived on the scene.

Choking back tears Mr Gittins said: "We chatted a lot and Ken spoke about his past experiences of working in different woods.

"Ken had experience and knew everything there was to know. He was very safety conscious."

Mr Jones's widow Tracy Jones supplied the inquest with evidence of the certificates that her husband had obtained.

Consultant arboriculturalist Paolo Baveresco told the coroner that although Mr Jones had used "well executed cuts" he did not have the necessary formal qualifications for the size of tree, which had a diameter of more than 380mm.

He said the "only explanation" for why the 420mm-diameter mid sized tree ended up hitting Mr Jones was that it side swiped him under a rebound known as "fish tailing".

"It's the only explanation," he said. "There would have been a safer place to stand."

Under cross examination from solicitor Richard Ottley, representing DT Gittins, Mr Baveresco said the tree was under 380mm slightly above where Mr Jones had cut the tree but wider where he had cut it. He did not have the certificate to carry out that kind of work.

"Ken was using the required cuts," he said. "But the diameter is relevant when you take on such an operation."

A jury asked questions at the inquest at Shirehall, in Shrewsbury.

Mr Jones, from Ludlow, was airlifted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham but was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. The cause of his death was recorded as traumatic brain hemorrhage.

Tracy Jones, Mr Jones's widow, told the inquest via a statement that her husband had grown up in Bishop's Castle and was an experienced farm worker. She provided the court with evidence of his training in tree cutting and use of chainsaws.

Coroner Mr Ellery told the jury that Shrewsbury-born Mr Jones had multiple qualifications, including using a chainsaw, but was not a professional chainsaw operator.

"It does not mean that he was legally responsible for what was happening," he said.

He told the jury that the only conclusion he could come to if he was sitting without a jury was that the cause of death was accidental. He said the purpose of an inquest was not to blame anyone.

The jury was asked to come to a unanimous conclusion when the members were sent out at 2.20pm on Monday.

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