Six figure sum over death of tree worker

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tim Healy

The family of a 29-year-old man who died while clearing trees for the construction of a wind farm has settled various legal actions in the High Court for a substantial six figure sum.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons, on Monday, approved the settlements of the actions, including those for nervous shock, over the death of the father of two Jonathan Gormley four years ago.

Mr Gormley,a chainsaw operator, died shortly before Christmas 2015 while working clearing trees at the site of Meenadreen Wind Farm in the Barnesmore area of Donegal.

An inquest two years ago into the death of Mr Gormley returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

When he was found, the inquest heard, Mr Gormley was crouched down and a pine tree was across his left shoulder.

Medical evidence at the inquest said the cause of death was traumatic or mechanical asphyxia secondary to compression of the chest due to a fallen tree.

Mr Gormley's partner, Mairead Coughlin,Cluain Barron, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, along with Mr Gormley's parents, Bridie and James Gormley, Boa Island Road, Belleek, Co Fermanagh, had sued Viridian Energy Ltd trading as Energia, Viridian RenewablesDevelopment Ltd and Windgeneration Ireland Ltd all with offices at Mill House, Ashtowngate, Navan Road, Dublin which were the owners of the wind farm.

They also sued Softwood Ireland Ltd of Ballymorris , Portarlington, Co Laois. over the accident on December 21, 2015.

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It was claimed there was an a failure to have any or any appropriate employee to co ordinate chainsaw work and to ensure no worker was permitted to work alone.

It was further claimed Mr Gormley had been allegedly allowed to attempt to clear a stand of trees manually using a chainsaw in circumstances where he allegedly should have been provided with appropriate mechanical plant and equipment.

It was further alleged there was a failure to ensure all chainsaw and tree felling work was stopped where there were gale force gusts of up to 44 knots.

It was also claimed Mr Gormley was allowed to work on a day which was entirely unsuitable for the type of work involved and in circumstances where it was allegedly dangerous to perform chainsaw work in a stand of allegedly unstable, windblown and haphazard trees.

The claims were denied.

Michael Cush SC told the court the six figure sum was a "global settlement figure" over the unfortunate death of Mr Gormley. He said there had been protracted mediation talks as a number of actions had to be settled.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Garett Simons said it was a reasonable one.

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