A 35-year-old tree-trimmer named Roberto Garcia was about 40 feet up a palm tree in Glendora on Saturday when tragedy struck:
A ring of dead fronds, which he had been trying to sever from the trunk, suddenly detached and slipped down over his body, according to L.A. County Fire Department officials. They say Garcia had suffocated by the time fire trucks arrived around 4:45 p.m.
In order to locate his body in the mass of dried leaves…
… “emergency crews were forced to use infrared technology,” reports CBS2.
Garcia is the most recent casualty of what the L.A. County Fire Department is calling a dangerous D.I.Y. trimming trend.
They say homeowners are hiring cheap day laborers — more often than not, Latino — to shimmy up the trees in their yards with nothing but rope. In contrast, licensed tree-trimming companies use cranes to hoist their workers up in buckets; this way, they're not directly beneath the frond rings when they fall.
A very thorough “palm tree rescues” post on the Fire Engineering blog explains some of the ways freelance trimmers can be almost hugged to death by fronds, including this horrific scenario:
“A sliding palm collar encountering a trimmer's flip line can instantly pin him to the tree and bend him over backward under the weight of hundreds of pounds of fronds, unloading a large amount of dust and rat nest material into his airway, in his eyes, and over his body. Now it's a race against time before he succumbs to asphyxiation.”
According to City News Service, Garcia “was part of a five-man crew trimming trees in the area.” And in an interview with CBS2, one of his co-workers — Jesus Rochin — says the victim was “pulling [the fronds] all out by hand, because the tree is really old so they just fall off easily. And what happened was they all just collapsed on him, and he suffocated.”
Garcia was reportedly working for a single-family home on Bennett Avenue near Grand:
A CBS2 commenter named Todd says that Garcia “was my next door neighbor, very nice person, hard working man, he was my friend, and he will be missed.”