Tree cutter dies on first day on the job

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A young man is dead tonight after being electrocuted in what appears to be a freak accident. The tree cutting mishap happened around 9:00am in the 1500 block of Timbercrest Lane, in Henrico's west end.

Police won't release the man's identity, except to say that the victim was in his mid-20's. He had just found work with this tree service, and today was his first day on the job. His death raises new questions about safety.

There's a lot of danger in the tree-cutting business...heavy equipment, and heights. The more help, the better. And the owner of the tree service, said the victim had ten years of prior experience.

"I talked to him Tuesday and he said, 'Yeah, he'd like to come to work.' So I told him I'd try him out, then he showed up today and 15 minutes after he got working he got killed," said William Forkey, owner of William's Landscaping and Tree Service based in Madison.

The victim was tethered to a tree. Police say he cut a limb that hit a 19,000 volt power line. The surge of electricity went through the wood, into the young man's body...which, police say, burst into flames.

"It's one of those days that, you know, been doing this for 20 years, it makes you just wanna give it up. You  don't want to see anyone get hurt in this business," Forkey said.

State investigators will now consider Virginia's "Overhead High Voltage Line Safety Act." In effect since 2003, it says contractors must stay ten feet away from power lines. If working "within" the ten foot zone, contractors must call Dominion to make safety arrangements. Violators can be fined.

It hasn't been confirmed if those arrangements were made, though the owner of the tree service says his crew was working safely. But on this day, the work stopped...almost as quickly as it began.

"I was looking forward to getting to know him, but that's something that's never gonna happen now," Forkey said.

Again, police won't release the victim's name. His co-workers said he was 27 years old, from Madison, with two young children at home.

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