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Unlucky tree trimmer's employer may have to pay for power pole repairs

Ralph St. Peter described his latest work project, where he was attacked by bees and knocked over a pole, as a “nightmare.”

Joseph Garnett Jr. | Times

Ralph St. Peter described his latest work project, where he was attacked by bees and knocked over a pole, as a “nightmare.”

SAFETY HARBOR — Tree trimmer Ralph St. Peter has had one heck of a week.

Africanized honeybees stung him as many as 150 times Saturday as he tried to cut dead oaks at a Safety Harbor home. St. Peter returned to the scene Monday to finish the job, but took out a power pole and live electrical wires.

Now, he may have to contend with yet another problem:

A Progress Energy spokeswoman told the St. Petersburg Times on Tuesday that St. Peter's employer may have to cover the cost of fixing the pole he damaged.

"It would be the responsibility of the tree trimming company," Suzanne Grant said. She said that it's just like "if a motorist goes off the highway and knocks a pole down. It would be the responsibility of whoever causes that accident."

Grant said the utility's claims department usually notifies responsible parties of any liability after conducting an investigation, a process that could last several days or weeks.

No final decisions have been reached in St. Peter's case, but "in instances where an individual or an organization damages regulated utility equipment, the party that damaged the equipment is responsible for the cost of repairing that damage," she said.

St. Peter, 44, was not aware of that fact when a Times reporter called him Tuesday.

"I'm sorry," he said. "That's all I can say. It was an accident. Nobody got hurt. It wasn't intentional."

So what would a repair bill look like?

"It really varies greatly depending on what equipment was on the pole, what else was up there, the extent of the repair work that was necessary," Grant said.

A woman who answered the phone at St. Peter's employer, Johnson Lawn and Landscape in Tarpon Springs, hung up when a Times reporter identified himself.

"I feel terrible about the whole job happening like this," St. Peter said.

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Unlucky tree trimmer's employer may have to pay for power pole repairs 08/10/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 8:53pm]

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