Man found dead in SC tree died of “positional asphyxiation” says coroner

The scene at the tree after the man was found. WSPA photo

WALHALLA, S.C. (WSPA) – A self-employeed arborist trimming and cutting down a tree on Holy Lane in Walhalla died around 8 a.m. Monday.

The coroner’s office says David Wayne Vaughn, 57, of Walhalla, was found unresponsive and suspended by his safety harness and rope 60 to 70 feet in the air around 1 p.m.

He had been topping and trimming the upper branches of a tree on a private property earlier in the day.

Oconee County Coroner Karl Addis said in a news release that Vaughn did not fall from the tree and had no obvious fatal injuries.

He says the cause of death was positional asphyxiation and was an accident.

The autopsy showed Vaughn had signs of dehydration and a minor head injury.

He says the minor head injury was consistent and most probably occurred from a falling limb.

These two events could have altered his ability to self-rescue himself, according to the coroner.

The property owner said Mr. Vaughn’s upper leg became wedged between the forks in the tree.

Vaughn eventually was able to free himself from the position after approximately 1 hour of work.

He also was able to remove his climbing spikes with the plan to rappel himself down.

The property owner said Vaughn appeared to be disoriented.

The coroner says Vaughn’s upper body arched backwards into a slightly inverted position compromising his ability to breathe.

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