Wednesday 20 February 2019

Man killed by tree branch at height of Storm Ophelia was doing 'a good deed'

Michael Pyke was trying to clear a road when he was killed
Michael Pyke was trying to clear a road when he was killed

A young man who was about to do "a good deed" by clearing a roadway at the height of Storm Ophelia was fatally injured by a limb from a wind-damaged tree, an inquest has heard.

Michael Pyke (31), of Ardfinnan, Co Tipperary, suffered massive cranio-cerebral trauma when he was hit by the branch at a time when there was a red weather alert in place throughout the country.

The coroner for the area, Paul Morris, hailed Mr Pyke's "wholly altruistic" motivation for getting out of his car with a chainsaw with the intention of clearing the road in the townland of Ballybrado, near Cahir, last October 16.


The jury in the inquest at Clonmel courthouse issued a recommendation, agreed by the Pyke family, that members of the public should stay at home when a red weather alert is in force and that anyone operating a chainsaw should wear a hard hat.

Mr Pyke was not using his chainsaw when he was hit by the branch, but it was found beside him on the road where he lay fatally injured, about 100 metres from the road blockage.

The jury's verdict was accidental death.

Tributes were paid at the inquest to the efforts of the gardai, fire service, county council staff and members of the public to safely remove Mr Pyke's body.

Gda Paul Shanahan told the inquest he attended the scene at Ballybrado at about 12.20pm.

"I think he was on his way to clear a number of limbs that were on the road, about 100 metres ahead. A large branch possibly struck him. The chainsaw was cold and didn't appear to have been used," he said.

Killian Foran said he was travelling with his friend from Ardfinnan to Ballylooby on the day of the storm when they saw a man wearing a high-vis jacket lying on his back on the road.

He had suffered an injury to his head.

They waved down a car and an occupant checked the man for a pulse, but found none.

"We could hear trees starting to break around us," Mr Foran said.

A local resident, David Ryan, who went to the scene, said conditions were "very bad" at the time, with branches "flying through the air" because of the wind.

"I was in fear for my own life while I was there," he added.

Mr Pyke left a partner, Nollaig, as well as his father, Tony, and 10 siblings.

Offering his condolences to the family, Mr Morris said the victim's intentions on the day represented "volunteerism at its best".

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