PALM HARBOR — A Duke Energy contract worker died Wednesday after a tractor he was driving rolled down an embankment, pinning him underneath.
Steven Brakenwagen, 26, and Levi McFatter, 28, were taking turns driving the Kubota tractor in a power line easement east of Lake St. George Drive near Chatham Drive in Palm Harbor, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
Both men worked for NaturChem, a company registered in Gilbert, S.C. It was contracted by the power company to spray vegetation under the power lines.
McFatter, of Lake City, was on a break at about 1:50 p.m., the Sheriff's Office said, when he went looking for Brakenwagen, who was driving the tractor and hadn't returned. He found Brakenwagen down what investigators called "a deep hole" with the tractor on top of him. Brakenwagen was unresponsive at the time.
McFatter called 911 and Palm Harbor Fire Rescue paramedics responded. They pronounced him dead. Brakenwagen was from O'Brien, a town in Suwannee County. Rescue crews required a crane to remove the tractor off Brakenwagen's body. The work took three hours.
Investigators believe Brakenwagen didn't see the steep embankment through the brush. Once the tractor started to tumble down the hill, he was likely thrown off it and eventually pinned.
The incident appeared to be an accident, deputies said. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also investigating the incident.