Tree surgeon escapes death after 200kg branch crushes leg

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Tree surgeon escapes death after 200kg branch crushes leg

4th June 2013

A tree surgeon, who narrowly escaped being crushed to death when a branch weighing around 200 kilograms fell on top of him, has received £25,000 in compensation.

Arthur Keitch, a specialist work accident lawyer at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the South London man, who is in his 60s and now retired, was helping colleagues cut a tree down when the incident occurred more than four years ago.

“On the day of the incident my client was asked to attend a London park with a colleague to cut a tree down,” said Arthur, an associate with the firm. ”Following an accident the previous month, the local Council had carried out an assessment on how safe a number of trees in the park were. He and his colleague were told the tree needed to be made safe as a matter of urgency.

“They were only given four hours to complete the job but when they arrived they realised the tree - which was about 60 feet tall with a 40 foot spread - was too big a job for just two people,” he added. “After calling the office for help, another three colleagues joined them and they decided to remove the top of the tree to make it safe.”

Arthur said his client described how the process involved a ‘climber’ scaling the tree and securing a rope to one of the branches that needed cutting down, leaving the two ends free. One end of the rope was then tied to a different branch while the other end was passed to him.

“The unwanted branch would be cut so that it swung on the rope away from the tree,” he said. “My client was standing correctly on the other side of the tree and it was his job to release his end of the rope at the appropriate time to ensure the branch fell safely into the ‘drop zone.’ This was the quickest method available in the limited time the team had to complete the job.

“Unfortunately the rope wasn’t properly secured to the branch and when it was cut, the swinging branch slid loose,” added Arthur. “Instead of swinging away from the tree, the branch came towards my client. It all happened so quickly but he remembers getting a blow to his head and being pinned against the tree before falling to the floor with the branch on top of his left leg. He said the pain was unbelievable.”

After the man’s colleagues pulled the branch off his body and dragged him to safety, an ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital having suffered multiple fractures to his left leg as well as a broken left ankle.

After surgery to fix the shattered bones in his leg, he underwent a skin graft operation as well as follow-up surgery when the grafts turned septic. He was eventually discharged on crutches nearly 12 weeks later.

“My client was on crutches and in and out of hospital throughout the next several months,” said Arthur. “During this time, he was unable to walk or bear any weight on his injured leg and had to rely on the kindness of his friends for care and assistance with all his day-to-day needs.

“Although his firm denied liability, they sent all its workers on a rigging course shortly after the accident,” he added. “On the day of the incident, my client followed procedure and positioned himself correctly on the other side of the tree. However, through no fault of his own, he suffered serious injuries to his leg which cost him his job, caused him months of severe pain and greatly affected his mental health.

“My client was unable to work for more than 12 months,” said Arthur. “When he did finally return to a lighter role his continuing symptoms meant he was unable to lift anything heavy or walk for any distance. Sadly as a result, he was forced to give up the career he loved and take early retirement. Although his leg has now healed he still suffers stiffness and has been left with permanent scarring and weakness which means he finds it difficult to use stairs and he struggles to stand or walk for prolonged periods of time.”

How can Fentons Solicitors help?

Fentons Solicitors has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of accidents in the workplace.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.