Tree service owner gets prison term for teen worker’s death
Former Florida tree service owner John Wilkes was sentenced to 15 years in prison last month after pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter of a child.
Fourteen-year-old Blake Bryant fell more than 50 feet from a tree that Wilkes instructed him to climb and cut with a chainsaw, despite knowing that the teen was not a qualified arborist and lacked proper training to perform such work. (The photo is of the tree from which Bryant fell to his death.)
OSHA cited Wilkes in October 2013 under the agency’s general duty clause for failing to maintain a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Wilkes was also cited for failing to provide workers using chainsaws with proper protective equipment, exposing them to serious cuts or an amputation hazard.
The legal age in Florida for working in the tree trimming industry is 18.
New sources reported that Blake was cutting off a section of the tree with a chain saw when he accidentally cut through his safety harness and fell to his death.