Devon boy killed by falling tree whilst on holiday
A four year old boy tragically died after a tree fell on him, an inquest has heard. Louis William Ellor, who lived in Dawlish, was on holiday with family in Brittany in 2019, when a 'rotten' tree trunk fell. The inquest at Plymouth Coroners Court was held by Senior Coroner Ian Arrows, who said the four-year-old boy tragically died from fatal injuries as a result from a fallen tree.
Louis was staying with a grandparent in Saint Marine in Brittany, when a tree, which had been dead for several years, fell onto him. Louis was born on 30 August 2014 in Torquay, and lived with his family in Dawlish. They had been staying at a holiday home in the north of France.
Read more: Devon Hills Holiday Park fire: Dramatic pictures show plumes of smoke billowing into air The inquest heard that a manslaughter investigation was opened against the landowners regarding Louis's death, but that there was no further information on the progress of the probe. On 28 August 2019, Louis had been walking into the garden at a holiday home in France, behind his grandmother, Anne Gore, who, at the time, was on the telephone.
In a translated copy of evidence from French police officers, Mr Arrows read that Mrs Gore heard a large cracking sound from behind her. As Mrs Gore turned, she saw the tree fall on top of Louis. As she cried out, more people came out of the house to the scene.
Mr Arrows did not reveal the extent of the injuries sustained by Louis, but did confirm that they were fatal. The tree trunk had fallen lengthwise, Mr Arrows read, and French police confirmed the child had been struck by the trunk. Evidence read by the coroner said French police arrived on the scene and performed CPR on Louis, though this was disputed by his father, Mr Ellor, who said he had performed CPR.
Evidence read by Mr Arrows revealed the tree had stood on the border of the holiday home, and a co-owners association. A statement read from the owner of the property said he had known the tree was dead, and had planned to remove it in the winter of 2019. He added the branches of the tree had been removed, and only the trunk remained.
A member of the co-owners association said they also knew the tree was dead, but had no idea it could fall so suddenly. He added they'd also been looking at removing the tree in the autumn months. The report of a French forester, untranslated, described the tree as a maritime pine tree of around 40-years-old when the tree died.
The trunk stood at 1 metre 30 centimetres, and was 45 centimetres in diameter at its widest point. The diameter of the truck when it fell on Louis was estimated to be 36 centimetres. The tree was also logged at 762 kilograms in weight.
Evidence from the forester also spoke of the tree's degradation at the hands of fungi and insects - hoof fungus was reportedly growing on the trunk.
Reporting inquests: This is why the media does it
As journalists, we have been asked if we "enjoy" writing about death. This question is often asked by the relative of someone who has been the subject of an inquest. They are often distressed, angry and deeply hurt.
They generally feel that we have pried into a secret part of their lives and that no-one else had the right to know about. And we understand that completely. The answer is never "yes, I enjoy writing about death".
The answer is that none of us enjoy doing it, but there's a very good reason why we do. The following quote comes from the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) guidance on inquests. This is the organisation set up to offer guidance on how we should operate as reporters.
"The fact of someone's death is not private. Deaths affect communities as well as individuals and are a legitimate subject for reporting." It seems quite cold - "the fact of someone's death is not private" - but it strikes to the very core of why we write about it.
Who can attend an inquest and why are they held?
This is what you need to know.
The general public is entitled to attend all inquest hearings expect in exceptional circumstances and inquests must be held in buildings which are "accessible to the public without physical barrier so that any member of the public can drop in". All hearings, therefore, are open to journalists, and "fair and accurate reporting of proceedings is encouraged". Inquests are held when the cause of death is possibly violent or unnatural, or a person died in prison, police custody or another type of state detention
It is a public, fact-finding process to establish who died and where, when and how the death happened. It won't establish who's responsible for the death and most inquests are completed within six months of the death.
Why report on them?
First of all, it should be reiterated that reporting on inquests is one of the hardest things reporters have to do and we acknowledge that a number of people feel we should not do it. But there are three very important reasons why we do.
In reporting inquests, we are often drawing attention to circumstances which may lead to further deaths or injuries if no preventative action is taken. By highlighting the facts which have led to a tragedy, there is hope that someone reading the story might be in a position to prevent a further tragedy occurring in the future; recognising the early signs of spiral which could lead to someone taking their own life, realising how little alcohol consumption it can take to cause a fatal crash, or addressing a health and safety need to prevent an accident in the workplace and so on. Secondly, as is stated in the guidance for press issued by IPSO, there is a public interest in the reporting of inquests, which are public events in any case.
In reporting an inquest, a journalist may clear up any rumours or suspicion about the death. And thirdly, the principle of open justice applies in coroners' courts and it is our duty to ensure that hearings are a matter of public record. Our reports, as a result, are often an impersonal look at the facts of the case and we appreciate that this can be distressing for families.
Where possible, we will make an approach to relatives attending the hearing and it is job of the coroner's office to notify relatives that the media may be present and reporting on the findings. Often, families do not wish to speak to us and we will absolutely respect that.
When they do, it enables us to write a more personal account in our stories. But we are not able to agree to the requests we receive not to publish a story at all for the reasons stated above, however harsh that may seem. We will not sensationalise.
We will not be gratuitous. We will accurately report on the evidence given at the hearing and the findings to educate, clear up any doubt and to maintain the principle of open justice. We understand that this will not satisfy everyone.
We understand that people will continue to feel that we are intruding on their personal grief and that has never been our intention. We do not enjoy reporting on what are often very personal tragedies but it is important that we continue to publish these stories and it is my earnest hope that doing so lessens the chance of similar tragedies occurring in the future.
What you can do?
It is beneficial for people to know that we attend almost every inquest in Plymouth and, when we do, a story will appear. We understand that coroners in Plymouth are routinely letting people know that this is the case and that members of the press may be present.
When approaching families for comment at an inquest, our journalists must do so with appropriate regard for the fact that inquests may be extremely distressing to the bereaved. They must cease questioning, pursuing or photographing members of the public if asked to do so by that person or their representative. We must never speculate and stick to the facts of the case as presented at the hearing.
IPSO makes it clear that journalists should take particular care when reporting on suicide, to ensure that they do not provide excessive detail of the method used, which might result in someone trying to copy to method. If you have concerns about the accuracy of reporting an inquest, wish to add a personal tribute or request amendments, you can directly contact the journalist who posted the story on Plymouth Live by clicking on their byline, emailing [email protected] or phoning 01752 293122.
Should you wish to take matters further, the IPSO helpline is open from 9am to 5.30pm on 0300 123 22 20 or you can email [email protected]