A man died in the arms of his co-workers yesterday after he slipped and was severely injured by the chainsaw he was using to fell trees.
Mthokozisi Chonco (23) was cutting down a tree when he slipped and fell on top of a chainsaw, which slashed his collarbone and neck. Fellow workers tried in vain to save him by stopping the blood that was gushing from the gash in his neck.
It was a normal working day for the employees of Siyanisa Timber Company, who were felling trees in a plantation near Blackridge, Pietermaritzburg. Chonco was a qualified tree feller and had undergone training in tree felling.
The accident happened at about 10 am. Siyanisa supervisor Msongelwa Dladla said Chonco shouted for his assistant to help him when he fell.
“He had begun cutting the tree and he circled to finish it off. He then slipped and the chainsaw became entangled in his shirt. When he fell the chainsaw dug into his neck. His hand got stuck in the chainsaw and it continued to saw through his collarbone and neck.”
His assistant rushed to his rescue and switched off the chainsaw and ran away crying with anguish.
Other employees rushed to help Chonco, who was bleeding profusely from the gash in his neck.
“We tried everything we could, he was bleeding non-stop. I lifted his head and held his arm up to stop the bleeding, and he looked at me for a while, but closed his eyes afterwards. Because the area was a slope we decided to carry him down to the road, where we tried to stabilise him, but he died in our arms … ” said Dladla.
The traumatised employees admitted that their job is dangerous, but said it was the first time anyone had been cut in the neck. “We have had injuries, but mostly in the feet and lower body. This was shocking,” said an employee who wished to remain anonymous.
Chris Botha of Netcare 911 said the artery in Chonco’s neck was severed, and he quickly bled to death before paramedics arrived.
The owner of the company, who did not want his name in the paper, rushed to the scene when he was called by the other employees. “It’s a tragic thing to happen. Chonco was a good employee and he was qualified for his job. It’s a great loss. Each employee is important to me because of the contribution each makes.” Dladla said Chonco was a “respectful and hardworking young man”.
When the police arrived on the scene, they cleaned the blood from his body and took it to the mortuary.
Police spokeswoman Joey Jeevan said an inquest will be held to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.