Australian woman died after 'head was cut off during freak lawnmower accident'
Published 04/03/2010 | 08:33
An Australian woman walking to work was killed during a freak accident after she was struck in the head by flying metal thrown up by a grass cutter, which left her decapitated.
The 42 year-old woman, who has not been named, is believed to have been struck by a 60cm piece of steel pipe, in what witnesses described as a “freak accident”.
Workplace safety officials have launched an investigation into the accident, which occurred on Wednesday morning in the north Queensland town of Townsville.
It is understood that the woman was decapitated and died instantly at the scene after walking past an empty block of land just after 8am.
Police said a tractor pulling a grass cutter ran over a steel pipe that had been lying in the long grass, which was then sent flying through the air at great speed.
Initial reports suggested she had been hit by a lawnmower blade due to the horrific nature of her injuries.
Police are investigating whether it was a blade that struck her.
The male tractor driver, an unnamed 48 year-old private contractor, is in hospital suffering shock.
It is understood he will be interviewed by police later.
Horrified witnesses have been offered counselling while children at the local Townsville Central State School were sent home for the day.
Cheryl Mortenson, a Queensland police spokeswoman, said the tractor lawnmower had been working nearby at the time the woman was walking past.
"She had been walking along the footpath when she was hit in the head by a piece of flying metal," she said.
"The tractor was operating nearby and she was struck in the head. We don’t know if it was a piece of metal or if it was another object."
Darren Randall, a local policeman who attended the scene, added to the Townsville Bulletin: “She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"She just happened to be in the exact trajectory of the pipe."
One woman said he had just driven around the corner just moments after the accident, where she discovered the woman lying on the ground.
"The mower guy was in shock, so I sat him down in the shade," she told the paper.
"It was a freak accident."
Geoff Eales, a local businessman, also told the paper that his staff had been left distressed by the incident.
''The policewoman said it was the worst thing she had seen in 15 years,'' he said.
''At the end of the day there is no other explanation than that it was bad luck.
''It was a one-in-a-million situation. If she had been one second later, or one second earlier, it wouldn't have happened.''
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland have launched an investigation.
Local police are also preparing a report for the local coroner.