Man dies after tree he was cutting falls on top of him

editorial image
Share this article

A Newton man died in unimaginably horrific circumstances after a tree he was cutting down fell on top of him as he took a break from his chores.

Phillip Graham, 44, was halfway through felling the 30ft conifer when he decided to stop work for a brief period to rest.

But the tree, unstable from Mr Graham’s cutting, toppled over, landing on his shoulder and trapping him underneath it.

It is believed he was alive for some time after the initial impact and may have struggled desperately to free himself.

The 44-year-old’s body was discovered by police officers two days later in the back garden of his Willow Avenue home after he was reported missing.

A post-mortem recorded Mr Graham’s cause of death as postural asphyxia, which occurs when a person’s body position prevents them from breathing properly.

It is usually associated with deaths during restraint by police and prison officers.

An inquest, held at St Helens Town Hall on Tuesday (July 15), heard Mr Graham, who lived alone, had gone into his back garden on the evening of Thursday, June 19 to cut down a large conifer.

Using an electric saw, he began working on the tree but inexplicably stopped some time later and sat down on the decking area of the garden.

Coroners’ officers told the hearing that when police called at his home two days later, they found Mr Graham sat with the tree across his shoulder, pressing him towards the ground.

The tool he had been using was still in the back garden with the lead plugged in. Police quickly ruled out foul play.

Instead, they discovered the saw had only been used to cut into part of tree’s base before Mr Graham stopped and put the tool aside.

That meant the tree remained upright as Mr Graham, who was unmarried, walked away to sit down before it suddenly toppled over.

Verdict: Accidental death.