News, Culture & Society

Conservationist killed by falling tree in Hampshire

A conservationist who spent his life trying to prevent deforestation was killed when a cherry tree fell in stormy weather and crushed his car, an inquest heard.

Social scientist David Hoyle was driving his silver Citroen Xsara Picasso at 70mph when the roots of the large tree became dislodged in the ground.

Despite braking, the 48-year-old father-of-three was unable to stop his car in time, suffering fatal fractures to his skull as the tree landed on top of him.

Mr Hoyle, of Crondall near Aldershot, Hants, had spent his life working to protect African forests and natural ecosystems from being destroyed.

David Hoyle, pictured here on a visit to a sustainable cattle project in Brazil, spent his life working to prevent deforestation. He was killed when a tree crushed his car in stormy weather

Basingstoke Coroners’ Court, Hants, heard Mr Hoyle had been travelling on the A287, a dual carriageway, near Odiham, Hants, on June 6 this year.

As Mr Hoyle’s car was passing by the cherry tree, its roots became dislodged in torrential rain, causing it to fall on top of his car.

Police detective sergeant Paul Plews told the court he had been the first to arrive on the scene as he had been following Mr Hoyle in an unmarked car.

DS Plews had worked as a medic in the army prior to becoming a police officer and was trained in battlefield treatment techniques.

He told the inquest: ‘I approached the vehicle and saw one male in the driver’s seat.

‘He had lacerations to his head and there was blood coming from his nose. His neck was also turned at a funny angle, indicating a broken neck.

Mr Hoyle, seen here working in a forest in Gabon, Africa, was driving his Citroen Zsara Picasso when a dislodged Cherry Tree crushed the car

Mr Hoyle, seen here working in a forest in Gabon, Africa, was driving his Citroen Zsara Picasso when a dislodged Cherry Tree crushed the car

‘I checked for a pulse and to see if he was breathing, but I judged that he was already dead when I arrived at the car.’

The inquest heard the tree had been inspected twice in the year and a half prior to it falling, but the only concerns raised had been about some deadwood in the branches.

Hampshire County Council chief arborist Mark Weal, responsible for forestry at the roadside across the county, had sent one of his staff to conduct a full inspection after the accident.

He said: ‘My colleague Michael Ripley said the torrential rain had caused the roots to heave and the tree to fall across the duel carriageway.

‘Two inspections had been conducted on the tree in February and November 2016, but the tree was not deemed a danger, nor was it felt it needed felling.’

Hampshire Police crash investigator Tony Johnson said checks on the filament in Mr Hoyle’s brake lights had revealed he attempted to stop, but could not do so before the tree crushed his car.

Mr Hoyle spent his life working in conservation after earning a degree in geography at Reading University and his masters in natural resource management in Edinburgh.

He met his wife, Marceline in Cameroon while working on a conservation project in 2002, with him he had three children.

He had most recently been working with Oxford-based natural resource company Proforest, trying to help developing tropical countries to stop deforestation.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, North Hampshire coroner Andrew Bradley said he hoped Mr Hoyle’s family could take some comfort in knowing he did not suffer.

He said: ‘It is plain to see that David was a loved son, husband and father.

‘I hope that, despite great sadness, it might help the family to have heard the evidence in person today.

‘It is of particular significance that he did not drive into the tree, but that the tree fell on top of him.

‘This caused major trauma to his skull, fracturing it in several places.

‘He would not have suffered, as these injuries were not ones compatible with life.

‘I am recording a verdict of accidental death.’