Record of Investigation Into Death (Without Public Inquest)

Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Rules 2006
Rule 11

I, Glenn Hay, Coroner, have investigated the death of

Dennis George RAYMENT

I have decided not to hold a public inquest hearing into his death because my investigations have sufficiently disclosed the identity of the deceased person, the time, place, cause of death, relevant circumstances concerning how the death occurred and the particulars needed to register the death under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1999. I do not consider that the holding of a public inquest hearing would elicit any information further to that disclosed by the investigations conducted by me.

I Find :

a) Dennis George Rayment ('Mr Rayment') was born in the United Kingdom on the 27 day of June 1949. At the time of his death he was aged 61 years. He was a married man who was receiving a disability pension.

b) Mr Rayment died on the 26 March 2011 at  Geeveston in Tasmania.

c) Mr Rayment died of blunt trauma of the chest and abdomen as a consequence of being crushed by a falling tree.

Background :

Mr Rayment lived with his wife, Linda at  Geeveston. They had been married in excess of forty (40) years. The union realised two (2) children. Mr Rayment and his family migrated to Australia in 1976 and moved to Tasmania in January 1999.

Around 2004, Mr Rayment and Linda moved to the property situated at  Geeveston. The property consists of a residence and several acres of fairly steep bushland.

Mr Rayment would regularly fall trees on the property for firewood. He would use a Stihl 029 chainsaw which he owned. There is no evidence to suggest that Mr Rayment received any formal training in the use or operation of chainsaws or the safe falling of trees generally. However, he is described as being a generally careful man and had been falling trees on his porpoerty for at least 7 years. He had been employed as a 'safety officer' when operating in his field of employment as a maintenance fitter on ships in Westernport Victoria.

Mr Rayment last felled a tree approximately a week prior to his death. Subsequent to this he informed his wife he had identified a 'fairly large tree with good wood' that he intended to fall but was just waiting for a suitable day. He indicated that he was nervous, for some reason, about falling this particular tree. At no time did he disclose a reason for his nervousness.

On Saturday 26 March 2011, Mr Rayment decided to cut the tree for firewood. He again made reference to being nervous about felling the tree but made no other comment about it. Mr Rayment had his wheel barrow outside the shed. His wife noticed his chainsaw, safety glasses, safety helmet, ear protectors, gloves, wedge and blockbuster in the wheel barrow.

Mrs Rayment last saw and spoke with her husband at the property around 2pm.

Circumstances Surrounding the Death :

I note there is no witness to the actual circumstances surrounding the falling of the tree however I am satisfied the evidence is sufficient for me to make the following findings.

Mr Rayment has collected his chainsaw and falling equipment from the shed. He placed them in a wheel barrow and at approximately 2pm he walked uphill to the bush area approximately 100 metres south of his residence. The area he has gone to is described as a steep, northerly facing, lightly wooded slope.

Mr Rayment went to the tree had had previously identified to fall. This tree was a fairly substantial 'stringy bark' with a number of limbs protruding from the trunk. It had a part burnt-out hollow trunk.

I have concluded Mr Rayment has taken, what he believed, to be appropriate personal safety measures in the falling of this tree, namely the wearing of a safety helmet, goggles and gloves. He secured a rope around the tree and the other end of the rope around the trunk of another tree approximately twenty metres east of this. He did this to assist with the intended direction of the fall of the tree which I find was to the west.

Mr Rayment, using his Stihl 029 chainsaw, has then cut a face (notch) into the western side of the tree trunk. He has then placed a horizontal back cut in the western side of the tree to create a hinge. He has then put a wedge into the back cut to assist the tree in falling to the west. Unfortunately the cut tree has twisted on its stump and commenced to fall approximately ninety (90) degrees to the right of the intended direction of fall. It has fallen down the slope.

At approximately 3pm that day Mrs Rayment heard a loud crashing sound of a falling tree. She didn't hear anything after that and thought it was a little strange. Between 4pm to 5pm she went outside and yelled out to her husband but there was no response. Linda went looking for him and found him trapped under the tree. She believed he was deceased and sought immediate assistance from her neighbours who attended the scene.

Dr Donald Ritchey conducted a post-mortem examination and determined Mr Rayment's cause of death as blunt trauma of the chest and abdomen. I accept that opinion and find the trauma was sustained when he was crushed by a tree limb during a tree-felling incident. Toxicology results of a post mortem blood sample were unremarkable.

Findings, Comments and Recommendations :

I am satisfied that a full and detailed police investigation has taken place into this incident. There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding this death.

Appropriate safety equipment was being used by Mr Rayment at the time of this incident. The chainsaw he used was in a proper working order.

I am satisfied that from the location of Mr Rayment from the tree stump, he has most likely panicked when the tree began moving in the wrong direction and commenced to run downhill away from the falling tree. Unfortunately he was struck and killed by a limb still attached to the tree and as a consequence was trapped under the tree limb.

Michael John Casey (Mr Casey), a qualified tree feller employed by Forestry Tasmania with twenty four (24) years experience in the forest industry, conducted an inspection of the tree and tree stump subsequent to the incident. He made the following observations:

  •  Inspection of the stump of the fallen tree indicated the tree was being felled in a difficult direction.

  • The circumstance that indicated this situation was that the tree had no hinge wood left, after the front had been cut into the tree stump. Also, the tree had a burnt out hollow, which contributed to the tree falling in the unintended direction.

  • Other circumstances were that the tree had a heavy lean down the hill, which was away from the direction that the faller had intended the tree to fall.

In Mr Casey's opinion the major contributory factors were lack of hinge wood after initial front of the tree was cut and also the burnt out hollow in the tree. I accept his findings as to the causative factors of this incident.

Having carefully considered all the available evidence I am satisfied the Mr Rayment has died as the result of an act of misadventure and that no other person was involved in this incident.

Accidents such as and similar to this one are all too common in our community. The evidence clearly establishes that Mr Rayment had been falling trees for a number of years; however it is clear he had never undertaken any formal training in tree felling or chainsaw use. Had he done so perhaps the causative factors described by Mr Casey may have been identified and reduced the risk of this accident having occurred.

I repeat what other Coroners have said in similar findings in recent years - this tragedy should serve as a reminder to all tree fellers that the falling of trees is an hazardous activity which requires the application of proper tree felling techniques to minimise the risk of death or serious injury. Any persons who intend to fall trees for any purpose including the obtaining of domestic firewood should beforehand ensure that they have received full instruction and training upon those techniques and that they be complied with.

In closing I wish to convey my sincere condolences to Mr Rayment's family.

Dated: 12 January 2012 at Hobart in the State of Tasmania.


Glenn Hay