14-year-old boy dies after falling from tree

Teen working with tree service cut through his safety harness

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – A 14-year-old boy from Palatka died Tuesday after falling 50 feet from a tree.

Clay County deputies said Blake Bryant was working with acquaintances for the John Wilkes Tree Service at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday at a home in the 4200 block of Scenic Drive in Middleburg.

Bryant (pictured, right) climbed a tree on the property and was cutting off a section of the tree with a chain saw when he accidentally cut through his safety harnesses and fell to the dirt ground below, deputies said.

Bryant was flown from a landing zone at Omega Park off County Road 218 to UF Health Jacksonville, where he pronounced dead at 12:10 p.m. Efforts were made at the hospital to save his life, but the internal injuries caused by the fall proved to be fatal, deputies said.

The teen's family has been notified.

Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Labor were notified by the Clay County Sheriff's Office, and they sent officials to the scene to conduct their own investigations.

Clay County detectives were told the teen was assisting on this one project but does not normally work for the company. The teen's parents with friend with the tree service's owner.

Jerry Brown lives next door to where the accident happened and says he saw Blake Bryant working up on this tall tree helping take it down. He thought that Bryant was around 18-years-old, but was shocked to find out he was only 14 .

"OSHA was telling me he's 14 years old. Are you kidding me? I've got twin boys in the army, and he's only 14 years old, I think if you're going to get trained to do a job you better damn well get trained to do it right," Brown said.

Even though investigators with the Clay County Sheriff's Office say Bryant accidentally cut through his safety harness with his chainsaw and fell, Brown isn't so sure. He says it appears the way the tree fell it snapped the safety harness.

"I got a cup of coffee and by the time I come back the kid's laying on the ground, blood everywhere. Arm's snapped," he said. "He got up on his knees. He was delusional. He died at the hospital."

Now questions will be asked of the employer John Wilkes Tree Service of Palatka. Wilkes' wife did not want to go on camera but said that her husband is "devastated" and that Blake "doesnt' work for Johnny" it was that "Johnny pretty much took him under his wing," he "wanted to make sure he didn't wind up on the street"

Neighbors say Bryant lived in a mobile home with his uncle. They say everyone's in shock and saddened by the boy's death.

"Unfortunately it's very sad. He's a boy. Hate the way that it happened. What do you do?" Belinda VandeVander said.

The investigation is ongoing.