A tree surgeon who bled to death at the top of a tree when his chainsaw cut his throat was "never reckless", says his former Taranaki boss.

An inquest in the United Kingdom has heard Alexander Kirkley was cutting a tree in the back garden of a client's house when the machinery "kicked back", hit him in the neck and sliced through his jugular vein.

By the time he had been lowered to the ground, the 32-year-old had stopped breathing and was in cardiac arrest.

Grant Hall, the managing director and owner of New Plymouth firm Tui landscapes. employed Kirkley for two years, until just before last Christmas.


"He fitted right in with our team," said Hall. "He approached me for the job, he had been working for one of our competitors and wanted to change."

Having grown up in the UK, Hall says Kirkley took some time to master the skills needed to work in the industry.

"He took a while to learn things which were maybe more natural to Kiwis; he hadn't seen the stuff being done, so had to learn it from scratch. Right from changing a truck tyre to bigger things, he needed to be shown and then he would learn."

Although Kirkley took time to learn things, Hall said he was never reckless.

"He didn't take risks, he learned and did it right."

Hall remembers Kirkley as being a "really nice" person.

"You couldn't find better personality-wise. He was almost too sensitive for the classic Kiwi male psyche actually, he was in touch with his emotions, he could express himself well."

Kirkley had spent the past three years working as an arborist in New Zealand. Photo / Facebook
Kirkley had spent the past three years working as an arborist in New Zealand. Photo / Facebook

Kirkley left Tui Landscapes to carry on his adventures, Hall said.

"He had big dreams, he had plans for what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go in life."

Kirkley was planning to pursue a career in abseiling big buildings, but when that didn't work out, he approached Hall again looking for work.

"Unfortunately I had already replaced him on the job, so didn't have space in the team. I did give him some casual work though, just in that last month before he went to the UK."

An inquest this week was told Kirkley was rushed to John Radcliffe Hopsital in Oxford but died two hours later from blood loss.

Kirkley had spent three years in New Zealand before returning to the UK for a few weeks to see family and friends.

The hearing was told Kirkley had spent the past three years working as an arborist in New Zealand, where he had hoped to establish a self-sufficient eco-village.

He had returned to the UK a few weeks before his death to see family and friends.

A statement written by the victim's mother, Janet Kirkley, was read to the jury at Oxford Coroners' Court by the Coroner.

Kirkley was rushed to hospital but died two hours later from blood loss. Photo / Facebook
Kirkley was rushed to hospital but died two hours later from blood loss. Photo / Facebook

She wrote: "Alexander was an amazing young man whose enthusiasm and zest for life came through in everything he did.

"He had lived in a Mongolian yurt for two years, first in our back garden and then down in Devon while he was doing his training.

"He visited more than 13 countries and interested people wherever he went. He lived in an eco-friendly way and it was his dream to build and live in an eco-friendly village in New Zealand.

"Tragically he died at the age of 32 years when so many positive things where happening in his life. It was the first time in three years he was back with family."

A statement from his father Paul said: "In his 32 years, Alexander got more from life and gave more back than most can hope to achieve in twice that time.

"He died doing the job he loved most, working up trees."

The hearing was also read a report by paramedic Christian Bloomfield, who was the first medic on the scene.

"When I arrived he was suspended 20ft [6m] in the air by ropes and a harness," he said.

He told how he and Kirkley's colleague lowered the injured man from the tree.

"As soon as he was down I sprung into action. I checked for a pulse but he was in cardiac arrest."

After failed attempts to resuscitate him with a defibrillator, he was taken to hospital.

Together with fellow tree surgeons James Tanner and Daniel Edwards, Kirkley had been helping to chop down two trees in the back garden of a house.

After what was described as the "relatively easy" felling of a sycamore tree, the 32-year-old had been using a top-handed chainsaw to cut smaller branches from an ash tree before pulling it down when the accident happened.

The inquest continues.

- Additional reporting Daily Mail.