Lessons to learn in forestry death

A bushman killed by a fallen tree was a hard worker who went the extra mile for his employer and excelled in his work, a coroner's written findings said.

Phillip George McHardy, 46, who worked for Balclutha logging company Don Contracting, was killed while cutting trees in the Overton Forest, between Centre Bush and Mandeville, on August 31, 2011.

Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar said in his formal written findings that Mr McHardy, who had more than 20 years forest logging experience, suffered a severe crushing injury to his skull, while limbing a tree he had previously felled.

A gust of wind blew over the last remaining tree in the stand where he was working. The tree fell on Mr McHardy and trapped him between it and the tree he was working on, Mr Crerar said.

A witness saw the tree get pulled out of the ground by the wind and fall but he could not warn him in time because he was wearing earmuffs and using a chainsaw and the distance between them was too far, Mr Crerar said.

Mr McHardy was regarded by his employer and workmates as being a well-qualified bushman to the extent his employer would defer to his experience and respected his judgment.

An expert witness for the coroner, Robert Prebble, said the intensity of the wind, the location of the tree within the block and soft ground from rain could have contributed to the circumstances of his death.

Mr Crerar recommended a copy of his findings be sent to the Department of Labour and Forestry Industry Association so lessons learned from Mr McHardy's death were not lost.

The Southland Times