SAN DIEGO — Several firefighters rescued a trapped tree trimmer from a palm tree in Bay Park Thursday.
The worker became trapped in the vicinity of Nashville Street and Tonapah Avenue in the Bay Park neighborhood around 10:10 a.m.
“It was about 10:10 and we heard some loud screaming and the one tree trimmer said the other guy was stuck,” Anna Gallardo said.
The Utility Tree Service, Inc. employee was trimming a tree outside of her home when things went terribly wrong.
Firefighters said the weight of the palm fronds can be upwards of 1,000 pounds.
“The weight of the [frond] skirt will basically collapse their body in half and they’re unable to breathe. This particular case…the person was still conscious and communicating,” Battalion Chief Glen Holder said.
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department crews raised two ladders up to the worker, who appeared to have been hanging by his safety harness underneath thick palm fronds 40 feet above ground. Firefighters used a power saw to cut back dead palm fronds to gain access to the worker.
As the crews worked high above the ground, people below prayed for the man’s safety.
“Knowing that he was alive was what I prayed for. He’s alive and I had heard sometimes they don’t make it through these,” Gallardo said.
“What was scary for me was I saw he was bend over backwards with all that weight on him. I saw that. It was really scary to me. I just started praying for the guy,” a witness said.
Within an hour, they were able to pull the man to an extended ladder and down to safety. He was transported to a hospital to be treated for injuries from the incident.
“This was just pedal to the metal; everyone’s adrenaline pumping, going 100 percent all out because we had the potential to save this guy’s life,” Battalion Chief Glen Holder said.
Trimming palm fronds is a strategic job. According to firefighters who have made rescues like this in the past, trimming the wrong frond can cause higher fronds to collapse, crushing the fronds below it and the person trimming the tree.
Holder described the pressure of fronds weighing on the man’s body to that of a car running someone over.
The extent of the man’s injuries were not immediately known. After being lowered to the ground, he was rushed to a hospital.