January 14, 2012 / 1:15 AM / 8 years ago

Man decapitated in wood chipper accident, coroner says

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A Northern California tree trimmer was decapitated when he became entangled in a rope that was sucked into an industrial wood chipper, a deputy coroner said on Friday.

Martin Lara, 50, was part of a crew clearing brush on Thursday on a hillside in Nevada City, California, which is 50 miles northeast of Sacramento, said Sergeant Paul Schmidt, chief deputy coroner for Nevada County.

Lara, who was from the nearby town of Applegate, was operating a mobile wood chipper and other members of the crew were using ropes to tie up bundles of brush to bring to the chipper, Schmidt said.

Somehow, a rope wound around Lara’s neck and the tension had the effect of beheading him, authorities said.

“No part of him went into the chipper at all,” Schmidt said, contrary to published reports. “The tension of the rope cut off his head almost like a guillotine.”

Preliminary indications are the death of Lara, who was married with two adult children, was an accident and not an equipment malfunction, Schmidt said. He added that California workplace safety investigators would perform an independent examination.

Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Greg McCune

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