Inmate Struck by a Falling Elm Snag

Michigan Case Report: 10MI034

The following report is the product of our Cooperative State partner and is presented here in its original unedited form from the state. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the individual Cooperative State partner and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.


In the spring of 2010, a male inmate in his 40s died when an elm snag (dead standing tree) fell without warning in his direction and struck his head. The decedent was a member of a 4-person inmate work crew contracted by the County Drain Commission through local law enforcement. The work crew was clearing a county drain of trees. The decedent and his coworker (Inmate 1) had just felled a 24-inch diameter cotton wood tree. Inmate 1 operated the chain saw and the decedent inserted the wedge to keep the tree from sitting back on the chain. The cottonwood tree fell in its desired direction (northeast), and also knocked several trees over as it fell to the ground. The inmates and the Drain Commission crew leader indicated the ground shook when the cottonwood landed. Approximately 10-20 seconds later, the elm snag broke approximately 12 inches above the ground fell to the northwest. The snag broke into two pieces, with the 4-inch diameter uppermost piece striking the decedent on the right side of his head. The decedent was not wearing a hard hat. An emergency response call was initiated by one of the inmates, and another inmate began resuscitative efforts. Emergency response arrived and assumed care of the decedent. He was transported to a local hospital where he was declared dead.

Inmate Struck by a Falling Elm Snagpdf icon [PDF 745 KB]

Page last reviewed: November 18, 2015