AN EXPERIENCED tree surgeon and former Royal Marine who served in Afghanistan has described how he heard a loud "crack" before a massive section of tree struck and killed his colleague.

Christopher Smith, 37, was giving evidence at a fatal accident inquiry into the death of 37-year-old Christopher Moses more than two and a half years ago.

Mr Moses, also a former Marine, died while working with two colleagues on a tree in Artarman Road in Rhu on January 12, 2020.

The inquiry, at Dumbarton Sheriff Court, heard how Mr Moses, who lived in Cardross and was also a maths teacher at Vale of Leven Academy, was working with Mr Smith - who he met while the pair were serving with the Marines in Afghanistan - and a third tree surgeon, James Fanning, on that day.

The lime tree's trunk had a lower 30-foot section that had rotted enough inside that a man could fit inside.

It then split in two in a large V shape.

The inquiry, before Sheriff John Hamilton, was told how the three men successfully took down the front half of the V of the 120-foot tree and then started on the second half after lunch.

Mr Smith described how Mr Moses was high up on the tree and cut a wedge to guide the tree away from Artarman Road itself, with the other two men standing 100 feet away, ready to pull the section towards them.

A second cut was made on the opposite side to the wedge to effectively create a hinge and direct the trunk forward.

But Mr Smith told the court there was a "large, large crack", and his colleague said: "That doesn't sound right."

The trunk initially didn't move, and then, instead of moving in the anticipated direction, twisted towards Mr Moses and struck him as it fell.

The inquiry, which was attended by members of Mr Moses' family, heard that he was briefly trapped between the two sections of the trunk.

One of the colleagues climbed up the tree to get rto Mr Moses, who was upside down in his harness, but was unable to free him.

Emergency services were able to get Mr Moses down, but he was was pronounced dead at 4.07pm.

The hearing was told that the tree going in the opposite direction than intended suggested there was a possibilty Mr Moses may have "miscalculated the depth of his cut into the trunk".

But an expert witness, Matthew O'Brien, who is a former police officer and now works as a tree surgeon, said that looking at photos of the tree later, he did not see any flaws in Mr Moses' cuts.

Sheriff Hamilton will deliver a determination in the case at a later date.