Man killed by tree branch 'was doing a favour' for landowner

By Louise Roseingrave

A man sustained fatal head injuries after he was struck on the head by the branch of a falling tree.

James Reilly (68) from Dromiskin, Co Louth was cutting down a tree when a branch broke unexpectedly and struck him.

Mr Reilly, who had years of experience felling trees, was cutting the tree as a favour for the landowner. The tree had died and the landowner wanted it cut down in case it fell onto the road during bad weather.

Mr Reilly (pictured) called to two friends at 9.30am on the morning of October 10, 2016 and all three went to the townland of Rossmakay about five miles from Dundalk, Co Louth where the tree stood in a ditch by the road.

“The tree was standing in a ditch by the roadside, I’d say it was between 22 feet and 25 feet high. It was rotten. Jimmy brought over a sling and I climbed up a ladder and placed it around the tree and attached a rope," witness Oliver McGuinness said.

Mr Reilly used a chainsaw to cut a wedge into the tree so that it would fall into a field and not on the road. As the tree began to fall a branch broke unexpectedly and struck Mr Reilly on the head.

“I saw the branch fall and hit James on the head,” Mr McGuinness said.

A second witness, Tommy Moriarty said the operation was almost complete when the accident happened.

“Everything was going to plan. He was a man well-used to cutting trees. When the tree hit the ground it disintegrated,” he said.

An ambulance was called and chest compressions were performed at the scene until the ambulance arrived. Mr Reilly had suffered a cardiac arrest. He was stabilised and airlifted to Beaumont Hospital. He suffered a skull fracture and bleeding over the brain caused by the impact of the branch. As a result, the brain began to swell.

“This is the dangerous thing, over the ensuing hours he developed build up of pressure within the skull cavity and that led to a lack of blood supply to brain,” Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said. Mr Reilly died in hospital two days later on October 12, 2016. The cause of death was severe head injuries as a result of the impact of the falling branch.

“There was enormous power behind it...He would have been immediately unconscious,” the coroner said, returning a verdict of accidental death.

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