Donegal farmer who died when cutting tree was helping neighbours, inquest hears

Kevin McElhinney’s died when a tree snapped as he was cutting it

Donegal farmer who died when cutting tree was helping neighbours, inquest hears

A 41-year-old Inishowen man had been helping neighbours when he was killed by a falling tree, the inquest into his death has heard.

The inquest into the death of Kevin McElhinney of Ballyloskey, Carndonagh, heard that he died after a tree he was cutting down on a neighbour’s farm struck him on January 11, 2019.

Henry Donaghey told the inquest at Letterkenny Courthouse that he had been working on his farm at Carrowmore, Gleneely and was helping Mr McElhinney who was cutting down trees for a neighbour.

Mr McElhinney agreed to cut down trees for Mr Donaghey who was operating a track machine to pull away the trees. It was a dry and bright afternoon, he said.

When Mr McElhinney was cutting the third tree Mr Donaghey heard a crack of the tree falling and a bang as it hit the ground.

Mr McElhinney was lying on his back with his legs on a wire fence not moving with the chainsaw lying on his legs, still running but not rotating.

Mr Donaghey thought Mr McElhinney was knocked out and he rang the emergency services and attempted to do CPR while he waited for his wife, an advanced paramedic, to come to the scene.

He said he believed the tree, which about two feet in diameter, fell before Mr McElhinney had cut it fully.

“I knew him all my life. We helped each other out. He was always at the end of the line if you needed anything,” he said.

Retired Garda Seamus Lyons said when he arrived at the scene Mr McElhinney was lying motionless between two buildings and an ambulance crew was at the scene. 

The Health and Safety Authority, which investigates work-related incidents, carried out an investigation but it determined that it was a case of a friend helping a friend.

The Garda investigation found the tree broke and kicked back in Mr McElhinney’s direction and struck him.

A post mortem found that he suffered, cuts, abrasions and a number of fractures. Death was due to hypoglycemic shock secondary to transection of the thoracic aorta, consistent with the result of being struck by a tree, the inquest found.

Pathologist Dr Gerry O’Dowd told the inquest he believed Mr McElhinney turned his back to the tree when he realised it was about to fall.

He died after the tree struck his back and severed the thoracic aorta which would have caused him to lose consciousness.

Coroner Dr Denis McCauley returned a verdict of accidental death.

The coroner and Sgt Shaun Paul Barrett extended their condolences to the family of Mr McElhinney.

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