Death by chainsaw: fatal kickback injuries to the neck

J Forensic Sci. 2004 Mar;49(2):345-50.


Each year over 3 million new chainsaws are sold in the United States. The operation of these newer saws combined with the millions of older chainsaws in circulation results in over 28,000 chainsaw-related injures annually. The majority of the injuries involve the hands and lower extremities with less than 10% involving injuries to the head and neck regions. Deaths while operating a chainsaw are extremely rare. The most common hazards associated with chainsaws are injuries caused by kickback, pushback, and pull-in. Kickback is the most common and poses the greatest hazard. Kickback occurs when the rotating chain is stopped suddenly by contact with a more solid area throwing the saw rapidly backward toward the operator. The cause of most injuries can be traced to improper use of the saw or poor judgment on part of the operator. We present two fatal chainsaw deaths; one with an older style saw, and the other with a modern type. In both cases the victims died from fatal injuries received to the neck region from a chainsaw kickback. The first case involved a 49-year-old white male operating an older style chainsaw with limited safety features. The second case involved a 38-year old white male who was operating a newer model chainsaw equipped with a low kickback chain in an unsafe manner.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Accidents
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Injuries / pathology*
  • Trees
  • Wounds, Penetrating / pathology*