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Death at Work Compensation Award for Family of Man Killed in Wood Cutting Accident

A six-figure death at work compensation award has been made in favour of the family of a man who was killed in Donegal as he was cutting down trees for the construction of a wind farm prior to Christmas in 2015.

Jonathan Gormley (29) died when he was working as as a chainsaw operator. The father of two small children was clearing trees at the construction site for the Meenadreen Wind Farm in the Barnesmore area of Donegal at the time.

The official inquest into Mr Gormley’s death revealed he was found crouched down with a pine tree was lying on his left shoulder. A co-worker, Joe Devaney, informed the inquest that he had last previously spoke with Jonathan around 11.30am or 12pm on December 21, the day that the accident took place.

Mr Devaney said that it had been a very windy day and he tried to contact Mr Gormley using his mobile phone four times between 2.17pm and 2.36pm with no answer. As a result he became worried and went to search for Mr Gormley. He flocated Mr Gormley slouched on his knees, wearing his helmet, and a tree lying on his shoulder.

He (Devaney) could find no pulse that he could find and, after being unable to take off the tree he was permitted to cut it. They were unable to revive Mr Gormley at the scene and he was pronounced dead.

At the inquest medical evidence ruled that Mr Gormley’s death was caused by traumatic or mechanical asphyxia secondary to compression of the chest due to a tree falling on him.

Mr Gormley’s girlfriend, Mairead Coughlin, and his parents took the death at work compensation action against Viridian Energy Ltd operating as Energia, owners of the wind farm, and Softwood Ireland Ltd due to the death of Mr Gormley in the accident that took place on December 21, 2015.

It was alleged there was a failure to have any or any appropriate employee to co-ordinate chainsaw work and to see to it that no chainsaw worker was authorized to be carried out by an individual on their own. It was further alleged that Mr Gormley had been been allowed to clear remove a stand of trees manually using a chainsaw in circumstances where he must be supplied with the necessary mechanical plant and equipment.

Along with this additional claims said there was a failure to ensure that all chainsaw and tree-felling work was immediately ended once there were gale force gusts of up to 44 knots. Due to this Mr Gormley had been allowed to carry on working on a day which was dangerous for work on a stand of allegedly unstable, windblown and dangerous trees.

All of the allegations submitted as part of the claim were refuted by the defendants.

After settlement talks between all parties were conducted, Michael Cush SC told the High Court the six-figure sum was a “global settlement figure”. Justice Garrett Simons gave his approval for the death at work compensation settlement and said that it was a satisfactory award.