Attracting our amazement – if not our moral admiration – as providers of arboricultural training in Staffordshire was a recent news story from Australia. It involves a man who stitched up his own chainsaw hand wound failing to overturn a drink-driving charge resulting from driving himself to hospital after drinking a lot of gin to relieve his pain.
Timothy Withrow, a learner driver from Port Willunga, south of Adelaide, sustained the gaping hand wound at his home in February last year. Withrow gave evidence – accepted by the magistrate – that he had called two emergency departments, only to be told that they were extremely busy and it would not be possible to treat his wound for more than 10 hours.
Fearing the possibility of infection, Withrow stitched up the wound with a large sewing needle and some fishing line, washing the wound with gin in the absence of an antiseptic. He also drunk some of the gin to relieve his extreme pain. With an ambulance being unaffordable and his wife unable to be contacted, he opted to drive to hospital for more professional treatment.
However, Withrow was caught drink-driving en route, which left him facing a 12-month mandatory licence disqualification unless he could prove such an offence to be “trifling”. But the magistrate ruled against him, stating that while he admired Withrow’s courage and tolerance to pain, he did not think the same of his judgement to drive.
Despite admitting to driving with a blood alcohol reading of 0.175 – more than triple the legal limit – and other traffic offences, Withrow took the matter to the supreme court. However, Justice Kevin Nicholson agreed with the magistrate, stating that Withrow’s options other than driving included calling an ambulance or taxi, as well as approaching a workman or neighbour for help.
The judge added that a clear danger was posed to himself and other road users by his very high blood alcohol content. It means that the case will now return to the magistrates court for the sentencing of Withrow, who also claimed to have previously held a full driving licence in California for a decade.
Needless to say, such a story only further demonstrates the need for arborists to keep themselves well-versed in the safe and effective use of a chainsaw, as is covered by our own Staffordshire arboricultural training here at Ian Morgan Arb.