Oxford tree surgeon's chainsaw death 'bad luck'

Alexander Kirkley Image copyright Kirkley family
Image caption Alexander Kirkley was in a tree cutting branches when the accident happened

The death of a tree surgeon who sliced his neck open with a chainsaw was just "bad luck", an inquest has heard.

Alexander Kirkley, 32, was cutting branches from a hoist on an ash tree in Oxford on 12 February when his tool "kicked back" and hit his neck.

Oxford Coroner's Court was told he held his neck before falling unconscious.

One of his colleagues tried to stop the bleeding and an ambulance was called but the arborist later died in the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Image copyright Kirkley family
Image caption Mr Kirkley was a safety-conscious tree surgeon, the court heard

The Oxford-born outdoorsman had spent three years living in New Zealand where he perfected his trade.

At the jury-led inquest, coroner Darren Salter read evidence from one of Mr Kirkley's trainers Josh Paice who wrote: "To this day [Alex] was one of the most safety-conscious tree surgeons."

David Fussell of the Health and Safety Executive told the court that he thought Mr Kirkley and his colleagues were competent and used equipment that was up to regulatory safety requirements.

He thought Mr Kirkley's accident was down to "bad luck".

Image copyright Kirkley family
Image caption He loved working with trees and 'being part of nature'

His mother Janet said: "He was a lovely young man, much-admired by everyone who met him.

"[He loved] working with trees... being part of nature, and being out in the wild and knowing how important trees are to the planet."

The jury concluded that Mr Kirkley's death was accidental and in summing-up Mr Salter said: "He lived life to the full and made many achievements.

"It's apparent he was a very skilled arborist and safety conscious.

"It's one of those rare things that can happen."

Mr Salter also said that he would write to arboreal regulatory bodies to investigate how to make chainsaws safer and whether more safety clothing, like neck guards, could be employed in the future.

Image copyright Kirkley family
Image caption Mr Kirkley's family plan on exploring ways to make tree surgery safer

From the court - Alex Regan

From the number of people in the court, it was apparent that Mr Kirkley was liked, respected, and loved.

His parents, sister, and brother-in-law consoled one another after hearing the verdict and the coroner's flattering testimony to their son and brother.

What was also apparent was his wealth of experience as a tree surgeon.

He had spent five years working in the field and his colleagues wrote to the coroner that he was "safety conscious" and a "talented climber", and was therefore given the task of going up trees with a chainsaw to cut down branches.

After the inquest, his mother Janet said: "It was just a fluke of nature, the chances of it happening are so small."

But the family plan to promote health and safety and explore ways in which tree surgery can be made safer.

She also told the press that the way she would remember her son was through his smile.

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