Teen Dies After 50-Foot Fall While Working For Tree Service
MIDDLEBURG, FL - A freak accident has cost the life of a teenager. A 14-year-old boy died soon after a 50-foot fall from a tree in Middleburg. What's most controversial is that he fell to his death while on the job.
The teen was assisting a tree service on a project but we're told by the sheriff's office he does not normally work for this company. The Clay County Sheriff's Office, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA, and the Department of Labor are conducting investigations to see which regulations may have been violated.
It's a tragic accident, made worse by the age of the victim. "It was pretty loud, I've never heard a tree fall before," said one neighbor.
Blake Bryant a 14-year-old resident of Palatka was working in Middleburg for John Wilkes Tree Service also of Palatka. Bryant was helping trim pine trees and died after falling 50 feet from this tree in Clay County. "He got up on his knees and his arms were all twisted and busted out," said another neighbor.
According to the sheriff’s office Bryant was cutting off a section of the tree with a chain saw when he accidentally cut through his safety harness and fell to the dirt ground below.
Jerry Brown who lives right next door of where the incident happened said, "I guess the owner was saying that he cut his harness... But in my opinion, it looks like it snapped up to where his harness was at and popped the harness. Obviously his training was lacking at 14 years of age."
The U.S. Department of Labor states that 14 and 15-year-olds may not operate any power driven machinery such as lawnmowers and cutters.
Mary Justino the spokesperson for the Clay County Sheriff's Office said, "OSHA and the Department of Labor will conduct their own work place investigation and determine what safety measures were used, whether or not they were used properly, if there any regulations that have been broken just by the fact that a 14-year-old was doing this kind of work to begin with."
Bryant was pronounced dead at the hospital a couple of hours later.
Josh Brown who also lives next door said, "I don't think a kid that young should have been up there. Definitely should have had someone much older with more experience, especially that high up of a tree. It definitely wasn't worth his life to come up there and do that."
While we found no record through OSHA of John Wilkes Tree Service having any previous incidents, neither could we find a business license for them through the state division of corporations. We did get a hold of John Wilkes Tree Service over the phone but they refused to answer our questions numerous times.
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