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Caretaker of a Farm Held in Trust Died Due to a Tractor Overturn to the Rear While Moving Downed Tree, Michigan

Michigan Case Report: 15MI104
Report Date: 01/16/2019


In fall 2015 a male caretaker in his 60s of a farm held in trust died when he was pinned under an overturned, non-rollover protection structure (ROPS) equipped tractor. The property’s woods had been logged; the logging firm took the saleable wood and left the tops of the trees. The decedent and a family member were planning to haul the tree tops from the logged area, but discovered an unharvested 16-inch diameter, 90-foot long tree had fallen. The decedent used a chain, looped one end on the 3-point top link pin just below his seat and the other end around the fallen tree. A tree stump was in the path of tractor movement. The sequence of events leading to the overturn is unknown. As the decedent drove the tractor forward, the tractor overturned to the rear, pinning him under the tractor. His family member was unsuccessful lifting the tractor from him and called for emergency response. The decedent was declared dead at the scene.


  • The tractor did not have a rollover protection structure (ROPS) and seatbelt.
  • The decedent hitched the load high rather than low on the tractor
  • The tree stump may have been partially hidden under brush
  • The weight and configuration of tree being moved.
  • The uneven ground and the obstructed view due to brush in area.
  • Possible tractor operation, eg starting tractor too fast, incorrect gear, clutch and brake timing


  • Tractor owners should ensure older tractors are retrofitted with a manufacturer approved, certified, tractor specific rollover protection structure (ROPS) and seat belt.
  • Ensure proper hitching techniques are utilized when using the tractor to pull loads.
  • Evaluate the terrain prior to beginning an operation with a tractor and ensure the working area is clear of obstructions and/or mark hazards for visibility.
  • When starting a tractor, especially when pulling a load, use tractor model-appropriate start-up procedures.
  • Ensure all tractor guards and safety features are correctly installed.

Caretaker of a Farm Held in Trust Died Due to a Tractor Overturn to the Rear While Moving Downed Tree, Michigan [PDF 1,202 KB]