‘Unpredictable’ accident killed tree cutter

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A LARGE branch fell and killed a man in woodland in Burwash Common while his horrified friend looked on.

Teodar Ulas, known as Ted, was cutting back a tree in Ashen Wood in the morning of February 20 when the tragedy occurred.

An inquest into Mr Ulas’ death heard how the 61-year-old, who lived in Vicarage Road in the village, and his friend and neighbour Peter Toll, were working in the woodland they co-owned.

The pair had noticed an ash tree was leaning dangerously and decided to cut it down, but needed to remove another tree which was in the way.

Mr Toll initially agreed to cut the tree down, but on inspection discovered he would need to stand in a shallow stream to get to it.

As Mr Ulas was already wearing waterproofs, he agreed to do the cutting.

Mr Toll told the inquest: “At one point there was a large crack and he did stop, had a look and could not see that much happened in that tree, so proceeded with the cutting.

“Then there was an even louder crack and the whole tree went forward and shot backwards.

“From where I was standing, I just thought he had suffered a glancing blow and I was expecting Ted to get up, looking embarrassed.

“But he did not, so I rushed over.”

The tree trunk had split into quadrants and a large part of the tree had hit Mr Ulas in the back of the neck, knocking his safety helmet off and pinning him to the bank of the stream.

Mr Holt tried to cut the tree off his friend whilst he waited for the emergency services.

But despite paramedics’ attempts to revive him, Mr Ulas was declared dead a short while later.

The pathologist report revealed Mr Ulas had suffered internal injuries, including crushing injuries to the right side of his chest and fractured ribs.

The inquest heard that Mr Ulas knew how to use a chainsaw correctly and was wearing full safety gear, including a helmet, gloves, steel toe-capped boots and ear protectors, during the accident.

The Ulas’ and the Holts had owned the woodland, which is located close to the home of The Who frontman Roger Daltrey, since 2002.

Mr Holt said: “We had cut down lots of trees on site before and we have never had one shoot back like that.

“That’s never happened before.”

Mr Ulas’ wife, Rosemary Ulas, said that after her husband’s death an acquaintance, who had extensive experience of cutting trees, told her the type of tree Mr Ulas had been trying to cut down was “notoriously unstable”.

She said: “Someone went down there and said to me it’s a notoriously unstable tree to fell because it has a weak centre and is top heavy.”

She added: “I have decided that neither Ted, nor Peter were aware of this as a possibility, otherwise they would have thought twice about doing it.”

Coroner Alan Craze said the tragedy was “a complete accident and wholly unpredictable”.

He recorded a verdict of accidental death.