BY MATT TROUTMAN
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Bill Parrish first heard a "pop."
The sound came from the backyard of his East Orchard Drive home where two tree trimmers worked to remove branches from a big pine tree. He looked outside and saw one of the tree trimmers run across the grass yelling "call 911, call 911."
He then saw the other worker hanging lifeless from his harness in the tree.
"It was a horrible accident," he said.
More than 550 Traverse City Light & Power customers lost power after a tree trimmer contracted by the utility came in contact with a 13,800-volt power line —that was the "pop" Parrish and others in the neighborhood heard.
Traverse City Fire Department Chief Jim Tuller said crews were dispatched Wednesday at 9:35 a.m. to the Orchard Street neighborhood just north of Traverse City Central High School.
"The person was hired as a subcontractor to Traverse City Light & Power," he said. "He was in the process of securing himself off in the tree when he came into contact with the primary power line."
No information was immediately available on the male victim's identity, other than that he worked for Trees Inc., a tree trimming company whose officials could not be reached for comment.
TCL&P Executive Director Tim Arends said the two-man crew spent the last two weeks clearing problem branches from backyard trees in the area. He said the utility, police and Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Administration (MIOSHA) will investigate the accident.
"(The victim) was getting a piece of equipment from the supervisor on the ground to trim the trees when the accident occurred," he said. "We don't know if he came in direct contact or was just in close proximity."
Parrish said the tree featured a burnt spot from where it had grown into the power line. He said he hoped utility officials would remove the "hazard" before another accident occurred.
"It's not an accident you want to have on your property," he said.
Arends said tree trimmers removed enough branches to make sure power could be restored to the neighborhood, but will not take down the tree until the investigation is complete. He said all TCL&P employees were called in and employee assistance, including grief counseling, is being offered.
"Contract employees are family as well, from a utility standpoint," he said. "Our hearts go out to the family of the victim.”