Santa Cruz Co. Worker Killed In Wood Chipper Accident

June 8th, 2010 by

A Santa Cruz County employee was killed when he was pulled into a wood chipper while clearing brush outside Watsonville, sheriff’s deputies said.

Henry Lira Sr., 61, was working with a Public Works crew that was clearing brush Monday morning on Paulsen Road, off of Green Valley Road, when the accident took place at 9:09 a.m. Lira, who had worked for the county since 1969, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Word about Lira’s death spread quickly, and several co-workers showed up at the scene and were overcome with emotion, county spokeswoman Dinah Phillips said.

“Everybody in the county is just shaken by this and just shocked that something happened like this,” Phillips said. “We immediately sent out our mental health team. They went out and are offering support.”

Lira’s son, who goes by the same name, told Action News reporter Phil Gomez that his father was a dedicated worker who went out of his way to help those in need.

“He had the most devout work ethic I ever seen in any person,” said Henry Lira Jr. “He just loved what he did. He loved the guys on his crew.”

Phillips said it’s too early to say if the accident was caused by a mechanical problem with the chipper or human error.

An investigation is ongoing, and Lira’s son said he is coming from San Diego to the Santa Cruz area to make funeral arrangements for his father.

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