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Handyman Died When Tree He Was Felling Split Vertically and Struck Him

Michigan Case Report: 12MI033

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 winter 2012 a male handyman in his late 50s died when a 3-4 foot diameter box elder tree growing at a 45-degree angle “barber-chaired”, and the vertically split section broke away from the tree and struck him. The decedent had been hired by a farmer to cut down the tree because it was growing over and into the field. Using a chainsaw to fell the tree, the decedent made a horizontal 6-inch cut approximately 3 feet up from the ground. The tree split vertically at the location of the cut to the top part of the tree. The split piece came away from the tree, striking the decedent. The remainder of the tree was still standing. The farmer, who was working in the field at the time of the incident, came to investigate when he saw the tree move unexpectedly. The farmer found the decedent in a sitting position, pinned face first to the ground with the split piece of wood on his back and called for emergency response. The decedent was declared dead at the scene.

Handyman Died When Tree He Was Felling Split Vertically and Struck Him [PDF 236 KB]