PALM HARBOR, FL — The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a work-related accident that claimed the life of a 26-year-old man in Palm Harbor Wednesday afternoon.
According to the agency, deputies were called to the powerline easement area a few hundred feet east of Lake St. George and Chatham drives just before 2 p.m. Aug. 23. When they arrived, they learned that Steven Brakenwagen and his coworker Levi McFatter, 28, had been taking turns driving a Kubota tractor to spray vegetation near the powerlines. Both men, the sheriff’s office wrote in an email to media, were employed by Natur Chem and were doing contract work for Duke Energy.
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McFatter, a Lake City resident, told deputies he was taking a break while Brakenwagen drove the tractor into a wooded area. When his coworker didn’t return, McFatter went to check on home. He "found the Kubota tractor overturned in a deep hole, with Brakenwagen trapped underneath and unresponsive," the email said.
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McFatter called 911 after making the discovery.
Paramedics from Palm Harbor Fire Rescue responded, but pronounced Brakenwagen dead at the scene.
A crane was brought out to the site to recover Brakenwagen’s body, the sheriff’s office said. It took rescue workers about three hours.
"Deputies believe Brakenwagen did not see the steep embankment due to the thick vegetation," the email said. "As the tractor rolled down the embankment, Brakenwagen was ejected and pinned underneath."
The death appears to be accidental, the sheriff’s office said, but remains under investigation. Deputies also notified the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the death.
No further information about the Obrien, Florida, man’s death is being released at this time.
Photos courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office