Friday, November 24, 2017
News Roundup

Girlfriend of landscaper killed in wood chipper: 'There are no more tears'


HOLLYWOOD — As a veteran landscaper, Hernan Gutierrez knew that working with a wood chipper was dangerous, his girlfriend recalled.

Yet he never expressed any fear of doing the job, said Karen Gamez-Pereira. "He had experience," she said.

That experience was not enough to prevent Gutierrez from losing his life days ago in a wood-chipper accident that continues to horrify.

"There are no more tears," Gamez-Pereira said Thursday, three days after Gutierrez, 42, was killed when he fell or was pulled into a chipper in Davie as he fed tree limbs and branches into an industrial-size machine.

"It is horrible to think of," she said. "He didn't deserve to die like that. Nobody in this world deserves to die like that. I'm in shock."

Gutierrez, a native of Guatemala who came to the United States 14 years ago, had two dreams, Gamez-Pereira said: to own his own roofing company, and to introduce her to his family in his homeland.

In the next few days, she plans to meet his parents and three children when she travels to Central America with his remains.

The death at about 4:15 p.m. Monday appeared to be accidental, according to Davie police. The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety & Health Administration is investigating.

The wood chipper itself was taken to the Broward Medical Examiner's Office.

Gamez-Pereira, 37, said Gutierrez was a hard worker who took whatever roofing or landscaping jobs were available.

He was working Monday on a tree-trimming job outside Federation Gardens, an 80-unit apartment building for low-income residents.

The prime contractor was Green Horizon Services Inc., a commercial lawn care and landscape management company in Davie.

Company owner Rafael Toledo said he was "sorry and saddened by what happened." He said he could not comment further while the incident was under investigation.

Gutierrez was employed by Tree Techs Inc., of Pembroke Pines, according to Gamez-Pereira.

He had worked there off and on over the years, and began working for the firm steadily about a month ago, she said. Tree Techs officials could not be reached for comment.

Gamez-Pereira said she met Gutierrez five years ago at a restaurant. She described him as "always happy, hard-working, humble, with a great sense of humor."

She was to pick him up after work on Monday. When he did not call by 7 p.m., she began calling his co-workers and his boss, but no one picked up.

Finally, at 10 p.m. Monday, a co-worker and friend of Gutierrez called and gave her the news, she said.

"He just kept saying, 'You have to be strong,' " she said. "He could hardly talk."

That night Gamez-Pereira said she called his mother and spoke to his children in Guatemala.

"They just wanted to know how: Why?" she said. "They couldn't believe it."

As a couple Gamez-Pereira said she and Gutierrez liked to eat out, especially in Miami. Although he did not drink, she said, they would sometimes go to a sports bar to watch soccer and socialize.

"Our plan was to marry," she said. "His dream was to save his money, buy a truck and start his own business.

"For me, he was everything. A good man, a good husband."

None of Gutierrez's co-workers saw what happened at the wood chipper.

"It was a hot day," Gamez-Pereira said. "Maybe he was exhausted. Maybe he fell. We don't know."

Gamez-Pereira, a native of Honduras who came to the United States with her parents when she was 16, said she is receiving emotional support from her relatives here.

"I am coping because of God," she said. "He is the only way, the only one giving me peace sometimes."

In addition to Gamez-Pereira, Gutierrez is survived by his mother and father, and three children ages 21, 17 and 14, all in Guatemala.

Lawsuit over Jolley Trolley dismissed

Lawsuit over Jolley Trolley dismissed

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority that Cincinnati-based First Transit filed in April, alleging it lost the county’s trolley contract because a "who’s who of Clearwater" lobbied the board to cho...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Tampa providing emergency medical service at MacDill, including new ambulance

Tampa providing emergency medical service at MacDill, including new ambulance

TAMPA — Sick and injured people at MacDill Air Force Base now rely on crews from Tampa Fire Rescue for help, and soon, they’ll have their own dedicated ambulance.Last month, the Tampa City Council approved the purchase of a $323,000 Braun Super Chief...
Updated: 11 minutes ago

State DOT looking for direction on Alt. U.S. 19 corridor

Residents can give their input on the future of the Alt. U.S. 19 corridor by attending two workshops hosted by the Florida Department of Transportation and Forward Pinellas, the county’s transportation and land-use arm.The agencies are developing a l...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Settlement approved for Treasure Island’s walkway cracks

Settlement approved for Treasure Island’s walkway cracks

TREASURE ISLAND — More than three years after cracks began appearing in its newly constructed mile-long Beach Trail walkway, the city has approved a settlement with the architect and contractors, and hired a new contractor to repair and rebuild the t...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Mounted police patrol Seminole Heights after killings

Mounted police patrol Seminole Heights after killings

TAMPA — A Florida police department is using horse patrols in a neighborhood that’s been plagued by homicides in recent weeks. Officials in Tampa have been searching for the person — or people — responsible for shooting and killing four in the Semino...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Tampa officer revives overdose victim in department’s first use of Narcan drug kit

TAMPA — A Tampa Police officer administered the department’s first use of an overdose-reversal drug to revive a 27-year-old man on Friday.About 2 a.m., Tampa Police Officer Scott Seely responded to a call in east Tampa about a possible drug overdose,...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Car-sized hole from broken water pipe closes road in Valrico

Car-sized hole from broken water pipe closes road in Valrico

VALRICO — A large hole that opened in Valrico’s Bloomingdale neighborhood on Thanksgiving day was caused by a broken water pipe, not a sinkhole, county officials said. The hole swallowed a Mini Cooper-sized chunk of Natures Way Boulevard, at the Elm ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Study to determine number of red snapper in the Gulf

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. — A team of 21 scientists will conduct a study to estimate the number of red snapper in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The panel of researchers from universities and state and federal agencies was convened by the Mississi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Newly engaged couple among three killed in wrong-way crash on I-75

Newly engaged couple among three killed in wrong-way crash on I-75

TAMPA — Last month, LaShay Waiters got down on one knee and proposed to Yvette Alexandre in front of their family and friends. About two weeks ago, the young couple found out Alexandre was pregnant."They had a great future together," said Waiters’ mo...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Police investigate suspicious package at Clearwater Babies"R"Us

CLEARWATER — Authorities evacuated a Babies"R"Us on Friday after reports of a suspicious package in a shopping cart.According to Clearwater police, someone noticed the package about 10:30 a.m. at the store at 21315 U.S. 19 N. The store was evacuated ...
Updated: 1 hour ago