Trapped tree trimmer dies in Mesa

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by Jennifer Thomas

Video report by Steve Ryan

Posted on August 21, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Updated Monday, Aug 26 at 12:27 PM

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MESA, Ariz. -- A palm tree trimmer died after becoming trapped under hundreds of pounds of fronds in Mesa Wednesday morning.

The man was part of a landscaping crew trimming palm trees in the area of Main Street and Horne, according to Capt. Forrest Smith with the Mesa Fire Department.

The worker was approximately 30 feet up in a tree cutting dead palm fronds when they collapsed, crushing him.

He was pronounced dead at the scene and his body was taken to the medical examiner's office.

Smith said the worker likely suffocated when the palm fronds encased him, but the medical examiner will determine the cause of death.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the incident.

The man's name has not been released, but Smith said he was in his 40s.

According to information from Smith, the vast majority of suffocation accidents are the result of fronds sliding down, or sloughing, onto the climber. Just a few feet of fronds can instantly and completely immobilize a climber. There is absolutely nothing a person can do to remove them because his or her entire body is forced down and against the palm trunk with hundreds of pounds of pressure. The force of the fronds is primarily on the head of the climber, forcing the chin into the chest. This is how suffocation occurs.

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