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Tree trimmer trapped in palm dies

February 17, 2009 | 12:43 pm

Rescue crews remove the tree trimmer's body from the palm tree. A tree trimmer died today after being pinned high above the ground against a tree in South Los Angeles, authorities said. The 23-year-old, who was wearing a harness, was suspended in mid-air while trimming a palm tree in the 4800 block of S. San Pedro Street when he became trapped in the foliage, Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman d’Lisa Davies said. The tree was estimated to be about 75 feet tall.

“A large section of the frond in the shape of a ring came down and pretty much pinned him against the tree,” Davies said. “The weight was pretty significant. Our operation involved trying to secure him before being able to remove him from the tree.”

After about 90 minutes, rescue crews were able to cut away the fronds and free the man, who had been unresponsive the entire time, Davies said. He was pronounced dead after he was lowered to the ground. The name of the man and the tree trimming company were not released. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health has investigated dozens of tree-work deaths since 1990, when the agency began logging such data. In the past, gardeners trapped in palm trees have died from asphyxiation.

“We get tree trimmers stuck all the time,” Davies said. “Most of the time they’re just injured -- they either get caught in their harnesses or, like this particular gentleman, the fronds come down a little bit heavier than anticipated. It’s a precarious occupation.”

-- Corina Knoll

Photo: Rescue crew works to free tree trimmer's body from palm tree.

Credit: R. Davis