Royal Marine turned maths teacher killed while cutting down 100ft tree

Christopher Moses, 37, was working as a tree surgeon near Helensburgh when the incident occurred in January 2020.

Royal Marine turned maths teacher killed while cutting down 100ft tree near Helensburgh JustGiving

A former Royal Marine turned maths teacher was killed after being struck on the head while cutting down a 100ft tree, a fatal accident inquiry has concluded.

Christopher Moses, 37, was working as a part-time tree surgeon in the village of Rhu near Helensburgh, when the incident occurred on January 12, 2020.

At around 3.35pm, Mr Moses was suspended with a harness 30ft off the ground, attempting to fell the tree.

The upper part of the tree separated from the lower half and, instead of falling away from the former marine, it fell towards him.

Two colleagues, James Fanning and Christopher Smith, said they heard a “crack” sound shortly before the fatal incident.

He was left hanging unconscious from a harness, with blood pouring “profusely” from his head.

Mr Smith immediately contacted the emergency services while Mr Fanning put on climbing spikes and a harness to climb the tree to attend to the unconscious man.

However, he was unresponsive and Mr Fanning was unable to move him from his suspended position – the inquiry heard it was apparent that he had “suffered injuries not compatible with life”.

Fire crews arrived at around 3.40pm and brought Mr Moses down from the tree, where four ambulances and an air ambulance had also arrived.

He was pronounced dead at 4.07pm on January 12, and an autopsy concluded cause of death was a head injury due to a falling tree trunk (accident at work).

Sheriff John Hamilton KC has ruled his death could not have been prevented.

In a written judgment, he said: “The reason that the upper section of the tree fell in the opposite direction than was intended is uncertain and impossible to categorically determine.

“In any event, this upper section was approximately 30ft in length and a considerable weight. Christopher Moses would have had no opportunity to avoid being struck by it when it became detached as it did.

“Although he was wearing a helmet and appropriate protective equipment, the weight of the trunk and the force with which it struck him means that it would have been unlikely to offer much protection.”

The sheriff added: “I wish to express my sincere condolences to Christopher Moses’s family and friends, specifically those who attended the hearing and followed the evidence with understandable care and attention.”

Mr Moses had started a new career as a maths teacher at the Vale of Leven Academy shortly before his death.

He had previously served for 13 years in the Royal Marines where he reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and had been part of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Following his death, the headteacher at Vale of Leven Academy, Matthew Boyle said: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Chris and everyone in the school is finding this difficult to comprehend. The thoughts of our whole school community are with Chris’ family and friends at this devastating time.”

A spokesperson for HM Naval Base Clyde said: “Chris was a dedicated Royal Marine who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as well as with 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group at HM Naval Base Clyde.

“His death has come as a shock to those of us at the Naval Base who had the privilege to work alongside him over the years and he will be sadly missed.

“The thoughts and sympathies of the Naval Service go out to his family and friends at this extremely difficult time.”

A JustGiving fundraiser started to aid his wife in the immediate aftermath of his death raised 845% of the original £1,000 goal, with £8,645 donated to the grieving family overall.

Christopher Moses is survived by his wife, Joanne, his parents, and two sisters.

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