Accident Briefs – November 2020

Accidents in the tree care industry that occurred during the month of September 2020. Graphic compiled from reports gathered by, or submitted to, TCIA staff.

All items taken from published reports or reported directly to TCIA staff, as noted.

This first item occurred in August and was missed in the Accident Briefs of TCI’s October issue.

Two rescued from bucket lift

Firefighters rescued two tree workers from the platform of an aerial-lift truck August 15, 2020, in Waterloo, Iowa, after a branch they were cutting landed on the bucket’s emergency shutoff, leaving them trapped.

Firefighters used a ladder to reach the tree workers and hooked them to harnesses and a belay rope so they could climb down safely. No injuries were reported, according to a report in The Courier.

Lift operator killed when boom fails

A man died September 1, 2020, in Zumbrota, Minnesota, after the bucket of a boom truck detached and fell to the ground.

James Mueller, 62, of Pine Island, Minn., was 30 feet in the air, operating controls of the truck owned by his tree service, when the boom arm broke off. He fell and suffered fatal injuries, according to a report.

Operator killed removing tree with excavator

A man was killed September 2, 2020, in Cottageville, South Carolina, after a large tree fell on a mini-excavator he was operating.

First responders arrived to find the machine pinned under the tree, the cab crushed and the 47-year-old man trapped inside. It appeared the operator was attempting to remove a tree when it fell on top of the excavator and a shed.

Firefighter-paramedics determined the man had no signs of life and notified the Colleton County Coroner’s office. Crews then used a track hoe to lift the tree while firefighters used chain saws to cut away limbs from the tree. Special tools were then used to cut away portions of the cab to free the operator, according to Colleton County News and WCBD TV News 2 reports.

Tree worker hurt in fall

A worker for a tree company doing contract work for PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) was injured helping to fell a tree in the Walbridge fire zone of the Mill Creek watershed September 3, 2020, west of Healdsburg, California.

The man fell while trimming a tree, resulting in an abdominal injury. He was airlifted to the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with serious injuries, according to reports from The Press Democrat and North Bay Business Journal.

Man saved after severing hand with chain saw

A man cutting a tree with a chain saw September 10, 2020, in Stevensville, Maryland, was rescued by a neighbor after he severed his left hand and suffered a wound to his chest.

Brad Childress, a senior deputy state fire marshal as well as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician, had heard the sounds of a chain saw being used when he arrived at his home. He was in his yard about to go off duty when the sounds of the chain saw stopped and he heard a man screaming, “Help me!”

Childress found a 36-year-old man with a severed left hand and deep cut on his chest in the backyard of a neighbor’s house.

A neighbor called 911 while Childress used a combat-application tourniquet – one of several types of tourniquets he carries with him on his deputy state fire marshal’s vehicle – and applied pressure to stop the bleeding.

Childress used his portable radio to notify Queen Anne’s County Emergency Services as to the extent of the man’s injuries, and also treated the man’s chest wound until paramedics from United Communities Volunteer Fire Department and county EMS arrived.

The injured man was taken by ambulance to Curtis National Hand Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore for treatment.

The man was a worker with either a tree-cutting service or a landscaping business.

Paramedics credited Childress for providing life-saving measures and mitigating the man’s injuries, according to, and KPVI Channel 6 reports.

Operator rescued from lift bucket

Fire crews rescued a tree worker stuck in the bucket of an aerial-lift truck September 11, 2020, in Sioux City, Iowa, after the boom hit a live wire, causing the truck to shut down and leaving the operator stranded.

Power was shut down briefly and no one was injured, according to a KCAU-TV report.

Operator dies in fall from bucket

An aerial-lift operator died September 13, 2020, in Sioux City, Iowa, after falling 30 feet to the ground. Police said the man was not wearing a harness, according to Siouxland News and KMEG Fox 44 reports.

The victim was subsequently identified as Jason T. Buckholtz, 44, of Sioux City, a tree worker with 22 years of experience in the industry.

Worker killed by rope in chipper

A man working on a tree-trimming crew was killed September 14, 2020, in Fairview Heights, Missouri, after getting entangled in a rope that became caught in the wood chipper he was operating.

Curtis Johnson, Jr., 31, of Granite City, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Fairview Heights police department.

Investigators believe Johnson was loading tree limbs into the chipper when a rope got into the machine and became entangled around Johnson’s neck, leading to his death, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report.

Man crushed when tree rolls

A man was killed September 16, 2020, in Foley, Alabama, while trying to help remove a fallen tree from a roadway in the wake of Hurricane Sally.

Joel Razo Trigueros, who, with his wife, Alice, operated a landscape business, was killed when he cut a limb and the trunk gave way and rolled on top of him.

His wife and other passersby helped get the tree off Trigueros, and he was taken to the hospital, where he died, according to a WPMI NBC 15 report.

Worker injured operating chipper

A tree worker was injured using a wood chipper September 17, 2020, in Milford, Michigan,

The victim’s co-workers called 911, and the injured person was airlifted to a local hospital for medical evaluation and treatment, according to a report.

Homeowner killed when tree rolls

A 68-year-old man was killed when a tree rolled on him while he was working to remove it from his yard September 21, 2020, in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

The man was working to remove a tree that was uprooted during a recent storm. The tree rolled and pinned him, killing him, according to a report.

Man cuts leg with chain saw

A man cut his leg with a chain saw while trimming trees September 24, 2020, in Bloomington, Minnesota. Police arrived within three minutes of the call and applied a tourniquet, according to a KSTP-TV report.

Chipper operator killed in struck-by

A tree worker operating a chipper on the edge of a work zone September 24, 2020, in Canton, Ohio, was killed when he was struck by a dropped limb.

The tree limb that struck Bryan Sills, 59, of Canton, fractured his cervical spine in multiple places and caused his death, according to an investigator for the Stark County Coroner’s office.

Sills was supposedly operating the chipper outside the hazardous area around the tree when a limb fell outward farther than expected.

The limb fell from a height of approximately 40 feet and struck him, according to a report in The Repository.

To access the TCI Accident Briefs archive online, click here.

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