NORMANDY, Mo. – A tree expert says it was no accident that killed a Normandy city worker trimming trees last Monday. Instead, he says it’s important to call it an avoidable incident that killed the father of nine.
A memorial of flowers and candles now marks the tree that killed 56-year-old Harold Parker. Parker was the father of nine children. He was reportedly an expert landscaper who was trimming trees on Jan. 9 with Normandy’s Public Works Department.
Drew Brauner, who runs another city’s public works department, says he’s cut down thousands of trees.
“It was 100% preventable,” he said. “…not an accident at all.”
“Trees are a lot like a gun. When you put a chainsaw into it, you’ve loaded it,” Brauner said. “There’s no real accidents. It’s now incidents.”
He says hollow trees, like the one that killed Parker, are unpredictable.
“At any time, it can just go,” Brauner said. “…a side of a tree can blow out. There are also multiple cut marks in the tree that let me know they were quickly unsure about what was going on. Long before the tree came down, there were signs that they probably should have backed off.”
Brauner said he wants to know why it does not appear Normandy’s Public Works Department used ropes. He also would like to know if they used safety gear or whether they were briefed about how they would do the job safely. Those are all questions the city says it won’t yet answer as it investigates.
According to a police report obtained by FOX 2, four witnesses, all from the Department of Public Works, identified Parker as the one who made the cuts in the tree trunk and then ran right under the falling tree.
Brauner said that does not make sense.
“If you’re cutting here, there’s those three steps, and you can shift all the way around the tree,” he said. “Now it can go either direction.”
Making it even more unusual, a responding officer wrote in a Normandy Police report that “the male was lying with his head facing north and his feet south.” The direction north points back near the tree, which would mean Parker would have to fall in the opposite direction in which witnesses said he was running.
“I think the much more likely scenario is that (Parker) could have been in another area and the tree went 180 degrees in the wrong direction,” Brauner said. “And (maybe Parker was) clearing brush or protecting the public on the other side and was unexpectedly caught by surprise.”
A nearby surveillance camera would clear up all questions except that Normandy says it did not capture the incident.
On Tuesday, Mayor Mark Beckmann, the city administrator, and a certified safety professional from the Missouri Department of Labor were on the scene.
They declined to talk as they began their investigation.