Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Norman Robertson's tree death was 'tragic accident'

A sheriff has ruled that the death of a Fife forester killed by a falling tree was a "tragic accident".

Norman Robertson, 67, died at about 10:00 on 14 May while working with his son felling trees on the Brigton Estate, near Stravithie, St Andrews.

A fatal accident inquiry into his death was heard at Cupar Sheriff Court at the start of November.

Sheriff Charlie Macnair determined Mr Robertson died due to chest injuries by "blunt force trauma", from the tree.

He said: "I think we all know how it happened, it is very sad that a very experienced man made a mistake.

"All of us in our professions have made mistakes in the past, and will again in the future, but his mistake had a very serious consequence."

70-foot tree

At the inquiry Mr Robertson's son, also Norman, 37, told the court how he had screamed out in vain to warn his dad just seconds before the tree struck him.

Mr Robertson junior said he and his father had been felling trees on a riverbank when the tragedy occurred.

He said they had chain-sawed part-way through a 70ft tree on the estate, but moved on to another when their sledgehammer broke.

The wind caught the partly-sawn tree and brought it crashing on to his father as he "screamed and threw tools at him" to try to warn him.

His father did not hear him, and was crushed.

Mr Robertson senior, a father and grandfather from Springfield, Fife, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The inquiry heard how the accident happened because the veteran arborist, who had spent all his life working in the timber industry, failed to leave a safe working area round the unstable tree.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Harry Bottesch said Mr Robertson was an experienced and competent tree-feller, but should have left a 40-metre "danger zone" round the unstable tree.

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