Fairfax City teen dies after electrical accident while trimming a tree

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Northern Virginia teenager was fatally injured Tuesday in an electrical accident as he trimmed a tree, plunging his neighborhood into sadness and dismay.

The incident occurred about 6:15 p.m. while the youth, who was 17, was using a power saw in a tree in the 4200 block of Berritt Street in Fairfax City, according to authorities and neighbors.

Current from a 19,000-volt distribution line may have passed through a tree branch to the youth's body, said Tim Butters, an assistant Fairfax City fire chief.

As far as he knew, Butters said, there were no witnesses to the incident.

"It's very, very sad," said a neighbor, Mary Black. "There are a lot of sad people on the street tonight."

Butters said that when rescue workers arrived, they found the youth about 20 feet up in a tree.

He said that the youth had been burned on his extremities and was unconscious.

Black said everyone on her street knew the youth, whom she described as "happy go lucky" and quick to laugh. He was also known as a hard worker who could be counted on to help out in the most difficult circumstances, she said.

He house-sat and cut grass in the neighborhood and "[shoveled] your sidewalk in winter," Black said.

During one of this year's heavy snowstorms, she said, she had to be at work in the District early.

"He was out there at 4:30 a.m., shoveling my sidewalk for me," she said.

She said he had learned tree trimming from his father and, after several years of working with him, was doing it on his own.

"He was good at it, and was careful," she said. "It was an accomplishment he was proud of."

The youth, who had completed his junior year at Fairfax High School, had three brothers, she said.

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