Belfast Telegraph

Castlederg farmer crushed by tree 'was in wrong place at wrong time'

By Donna Deeney

A farmer who was "just in the wrong place at the wrong time" died when a tree he was felling landed on him, the Coroner's Court has heard.

John Ernest Emery (73) from Castlederg had gone into one of his fields to chop down an old oak tree with a chainsaw but in a bizarre accident the tree rolled off a large boulder and landed on him.

Twenty-one of Mr Emery's ribs were broken, as was his sternum and one of his lungs was lacerated by the tree trunk which landed on top of him, the post-mortem found.

Dr Peter Ingram, the deputy state pathologist who carried out the post-mortem, also found that Mr Emery had coronary artery disease, a cancerous tumour on his kidney and the disease had also spread to his lung, something his family were unaware of.

Mr Emery's brother-in-law David Adams told the court that he had spoken to Mr Emery, who was known as Ernest, at 10.30am on February 7, a day that was calm and dry.

Mr Emery told him that he was taking the chainsaw to the old tree at the bottom of the field.

Mr Adams said that when he was driving along the road at 2.30pm he saw Mr Emery's four-wheel drive in the field but didn't think it was unusual.

Then when Kate Toland, a friend of Mr Emery's, rang at 8.30pm to say that he had failed to show at a dance they were both going to, Mr Adams and his wife went to his home to check if he was there.

Mr Adams then recalled that the house was "in darkness" so they went to the field and using the lights from his own vehicle went down to the bottom where he found his brother-in-law lying under the tree.

Mr Adams said it was clear that the farmer was dead so he called Mr Emery's wife and the emergency services. Northern Ireland Chief Coroner John Lecky told Mr Adams he didn't think that even if someone had been with Mr Emery that he could have been saved.

He added: "He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"While Dr Ingram can't be certain that death was instantaneous, I think unconsciousness would have been instantaneous and death would certainly have occurred within moments."

Mr Lecky recorded the cause of Mr Emery's death as fractured ribs and sternum in the first part, but also recorded that he had coronary heart disease and that there was a cancerous tumour on his kidney which had spread to his lung.

Speaking after Mr Lecky expressed his condolences, Mr Emery's daughter Linda said news that their father had cancer was a real shock to them. She said: "Looking at my father you would never have guessed there was anything like that wrong with him. We had no idea and I am not sure if he did either.

"We knew he had asthma but he was fit and able to do anything.

"He was a very capable, careful man, full of intelligence but also with a really good sense of humour.

"He never sat still. He worked all day on the farm which was his life.

"He loved it. It was his father's before him and the one wee bit of comfort we have in all of this, is that he died on the land he loved."

Belfast Telegraph

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