Tree trimmer suffocated to death while working in palm tree


by Catherine Holland

Posted on April 17, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Updated Saturday, Apr 17 at 5:49 PM

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MESA -- A skirt of dead palm fronds suffocated a landscaper who was working in the the front yard of Mesa home Saturday afternoon.

It happened in the area of Country Club Drive and Brown Road.

The man was about 45 feet up the tree when the heavy palm fronds collapsed and trapped him. 

The man's partner on the ground told firefighters he was helpless to do anything.

The victim was dead before rescuers could get to him.

"The skirt is very, very heavy," explained Capt. Jerome Schirmer of the Mesa Fire Department. "That size of a skirt probably weighs over 1,000 pounds. When that comes down on top of you and you're leaned back, it can literally break you in half."

Schirmer has been on 15 calls like this. He said most of them did not end well.

"It's an extremely dangerous situation," he said.

While the victim's name has not been released, 3TV has learned that he was in his mid-30s and leaves behind a wife and a young family.

A similar incident occurred in Phoenix a year ago. In that case, the man was trapped by thousands of pounds of palm fronds. His leg was also cut by his own chainsaw, but firefighters said suffocation is what killed him.