A tree worker died Monday morning in an accident outside a home east of Groveland.
Jason Alan Stuart, 35, was a resident of Bay Point, an East Bay community in Contra Costa County, according to staff at Terzich & Wilson Funeral Home of Sonora.
A call about the incident came in at 10:45 a.m. and the accident location was 21925 Big Creek Shaft Road, a residence, said Sgt. Andrea Benson with the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office.
The company is local, from Groveland, and it’s called Down to Earth Construction. Workers were doing tree work and according to the company owner, Stuart was about 80 to 100 feet up a large Ponderosa tree.
“He had on his climbing gear and for unknown reason the other workers heard him say something and looked up and saw Stuart already half the way down the tree falling,” Benson said in response to questions from The Union Democrat. “He hit the sidewalk just outside the residence.”
Stuart was unresponsive, but he had a pulse, Benson said. Fire and medic personnel transported him to Highway 120 to meet an air ambulance. But he died before being flown for treatment.
Stuart was an experienced tree worker and climber, his employer told sheriff’s personnel. Before he fell Monday he was cutting branches as he was climbing up, and he was going to cut the large tree down in sections.
An autopsy will be scheduled, Benson said. Representatives for Down to Earth Construction could not be reached for comment.
Stuart’s death was at least the third fatality involving tree workers in the Mother Lode so far this year.
Tree removal crews have come to Calaveras County and Tuolumne County from all over the United States, Mexico and other countries in response to the ongoing mortality crisis that has killed more than 100 million trees in the Central Sierra Nevada and elsewhere in California since 2010. They have also come to remove trees burned in recent wildfires.
On April 15, Jorge Garcia Moctezuma , 21, from Winlock, Washington, and Guerrero, Mexico, died when a 100-foot-tall ponderosa pine he was working to remove off Cedar Springs Road, near Twain Harte, snapped below him.
Moctezuma was an employee of Action Tree Service, LLC, a Kentucky-based contractor for Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s emergency program to remove trees near power lines that are dead or dying due to drought and infestation.
On April 6, Christopher Hiser, 21, of Soulsbyville, died while working a project in Mountain Ranch to remove trees burned by the 2015 Butte Fire.
Hiser was employed by a subcontractor for Phillips and Jordan, the primary contractor for the Butte Fire project.
Eric Hedrick, vice president of Phillips and Jordan, released a statement in mid-April that said the company had launched an investigation into events that led to Hiser’s death in hope of preventing another accident like it.
The Division of Occupational Safety and Health under the California Department of Industrial Relations, also known as Cal-OSHA, investigates all workplace deaths in the Golden State.
Logging is consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, logging topped the list of deadliest civilian occupations at a rate of about 132 deaths for every 100,000 full-time workers in 2015. The total number of deaths that year was 67.
A news release by Cal-OSHA stated 12 tree workers died in accidents on the job between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2016.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.