A father of five who was killed when a 40 foot tree fell on him was feet from safety an inquest into the death of 48 year old Danny Gallagher heard yesterday.
Danny Gallagher from Doon Well, Termon was instantly killed when a tree he was felling at the back of his brother’s farm unexpectedly fell in the wrong direction on November 5, last. Retired Sergeant, Oliver Moran, told the coroner’s court that he arrived at the scene soon after the ambulance services. Milford gardaí were already in attendance. “It appeared that the tree had fallen on him,” he said.
He said that Danny Gallagher had been cutting down trees near his brother, Kieran’s home when the tree he was cutting fell in the opposite direction to which it was expected to. When asked why the tree had fallen in the wrong direction the former sergeant said that he had no idea why it happened. “He had almost got away,” he said.
Kieran Gallagher recalled how he and his brother Danny began cutting trees at around 10.30 that morning. Kieran was asked by his brother to get a tractor for the 40 foot tree, which was around the fifth tree that they were to fell that day.
Danny, an experienced tree feller, went to work on the tree. A rope had been tied to the tree and a wedge cut into it. Kieran recalled seeing his brother run from the tree as it began to fall in his direction. He ran to where his brother was and shouted but received no response. His brother was bleeding from his nose and his ear and Kieran attempted to resuscitate him.
Kieran described the tree as being “slightly bowed” and having heavy branches near the top of it. Asked by the foreman of the jury, Colm Rafferty as to where exactly the tree fell. Kieran described the tree as having fallen to ten o’clock rather than twelve o’clock on the face of a clock.
He said that his brother who was a former ESB worker had great knowledge of cutting trees having had cut hundreds of them and had successfully completed many safety courses. Kieran said that he couldn’t understand why the tree had fallen in the wrong direction.
When asked by the County Coroner, John Cannon if there was a lesson to be learnt from what had happened or could anything have been done differently, Kieran replied that he had asked himself the same question everyday for the past five months.
Pathologist Dr Gerry O’Dowd said death would have been instantaneous. An examination of the dead man found he had suffered lacerations to the head and neck. “Death was due to a severe head injury which was as a result of blunt trauma due to a falling tree,” he said.
The jury of two men and four women found death was consistent with a blunt injury to the head. They also issued a number of recommendations as a result of the tragic death.
These include that all people cutting trees wear safety helmets, that at least three people take part in the cutting of a tree, that weather conditions be considered and that a suitable, elasticated rope be used when pulling down a tree. Coroner John Cannon said the evidence showed that the seemingly simple task of felling trees could have tragic consequences.
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