Borders forestry worker’s death remains a mystery one year on

The Sunderland Hall estate, near Lindean.
The Sunderland Hall estate, near Lindean.

The death of a forestry worker in the Borders a year ago remains a mystery despite the best efforts of a fatal accident inquiry at Selkirk Sheriff Court this week to explain the tragedy.

The investigation drew a blank in its attempts to establish the circumstances that led to a tree falling and killing chainsaw operator Kenny Scott.

The 58-year-old sustained head and internal injuries after being struck by the tree after it fell on him while he was cutting it on the Sunderland Hall estate, near Lindean, on Tuesday, January 31, last year.

The self-employed woodcutter, formerly of Jedburgh but latterly of Minto, near Denholm, went into cardiac arrest and could not be revived by paramedics.

There was speculation during the inquiry that the tree had bounced before striking Mr Scott as he tried to dislodge a nearby hung-up tree.

As there were no direct witnesses or evidence to back up that theory, however, sheriff Peter Paterson said he could not include it in his determination.

As a result, he made no findings other than the cause and time of death at the end of the one-day inquiry.

Sheriff Paterson told relatives of Mr Scott that usually the court could offer some insight into how a fatality had occurred, but he added: “Sadly, in this case, we are really none the wiser than the parties were at the time of the accident.

“A tragic accident has occurred, and Mr Scott sustained injuries as a result of a tree falling on him somehow, and these injuries caused his death.

“Beyond that, we don’t know much more.

“All those in the chain of duty have done what was required of them by the law.”

Sheriff Paterson said Mr Scott was clearly a competent and qualified operative, having been fully trained and with more than 40 years’ experience in the forestry industry.

He added: “There is no criticism of the emergency services in terms of response, which, in fact, was exemplary.

“There were considerable resources to try to save his life. Therefore, no blame can be attached to any parties involved, as far as I can see.”

The sheriff ruled that Mr Scott’s death occurred between 1pm and 2.55pm on January 31 in woodland on the Sunderland Hall estate, that being the period of time between him resuming duties after a lunch break and an ambulance being called.

He added that the cause of death was as a result of a tree falling on him, but heart disease might have been a significant factor.

Sheriff Paterson concluded: “I cannot determine how the accident occurred beyond a tree falling on him. I make no further findings.

“It is a regret to all that this exhaustive process has not established much more.”

The inquiry was told that following the accident, the Health and Safety Executive put out a safety alert on measures to be taken by people working on felling trees.