Family considering legal action on fallen tree death after Donegal Town inquest

A solicitor representing the family of a chainsaw operator killed by a tree says they are now looking at their legal options.

Damien Tansey confirmed the family intends to pursue a civil action against 17 defendant companies and organisations.

Mr Tansey was speaking after an inquest jury returned a verdict of misadventure on the death of 29-year-old Jonathan Gormley.

 The jury also found, in accordance with the medical evidence, that death on a  hill near Barrnesmore Gap four days before Christmas 2015 was due to asphyxiation and compression to the chest from a falling tree.

 During the inquest Mr Tansey said the  family felt that father of two Jonathan was abandoned on the day he was working on dangerous employment.

 Self-employed Mr Gormley was from from Belleek, Co. Fermanagh, and lived at Ernedale Heights, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal

His parents, James and Bridie Gormley and his partner Mairead Coughlan heard medical evidence that Jonathan could have survived had the tree been removed in time.

 They listened while Coroner Denis McCauley heard how the father of two was found on his knees beneath a pine tree by a workmate.

 The inquest in Donegal town was told that Mr Gormley was working as sub-contractor on a windy day for Softwood which was engaged by Energia and Greenbelt to clear trees so turbines on a wind-farm could work efficiently.

 Joe Devaney, who was operating a timber harvesting machine, told how he discovered sawman Jonathan on his knees beneath a tree on his left shoulder.

 Mr Devaney told how they were separated at a distance of 150 to 200 metres tow about two and a half hours on the site at Meenadreen, Barnesmore.

 When he failed to get an answer following a number of calls to Jonathan’s mobile phone he found him on his knees with a pine tree over his left shoulder. He couldn’t feel a pulse and phoned his boss and the emergency services.

 Mr Tansey expressed concern about a chainsaw operator working “on dangerous activity” on his own.

 Mr Devaney said the chainsaw operator wouldn’t have been permitted to work closer than 90 metres to the wood harvester.

 Softwood company owner Thomas Kelly told the inquest that company safety regulations specified that under no circumstances should anybody work a chainsaw when alone.

 He denied it was inappropriate to be working that day when there was a wind and “hanging” trees which were uprooted but were prevented by other trees from falling to the ground.

 Pathologist Dr Caitriona Dillon, who conducted a post mortem examination at Letterkenny University Hospital, said death was due to asphyxiation and compression to the chest from a falling tree.

 She said had the tree been removed immediately there was every chance that Jonathan would have survived because his injuries were relatively minor.