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Cass County tree trimmer airlifted after 40-foot fall

By Dave D'Marko,


FREEMAN, Mo. — A Cass County tree trimmer remains in the hospital after being airlifted to Research Medical Center last week when he fell more than 40 feet.

That fall happened just days before Michael Richardson’s wedding. His fiancée is thankful she’s not planning a funeral instead.

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Dawson Richardson has trouble striking the image from his mind.

“Actually being there, seeing how it worked and seeing him down on the ground, not being able to help him. That really got me,” Richardson, 21, said.

The 41-year-old veteran tree climber who fell out of a tree last week in Freeman, Missouri wasn’t just his boss.

“He said, ‘Dad fell out of the tree,’ so I got in the car and drove as fast as I could with our littlest over there,” Amanda West, his fiancée, said.

“I knew he was alright because he just instantly started moving and making noise, and the next thing was call 911,” Trevor Casas said.

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Richardson was alive but in serious agony and now has a long road to recovery.

“He shattered his pelvis. He’s got plates, front and back. Then they did his back. He’s got screws through his back, then his femur was shattered in three spots,” West explained.

To top it off, it all happened right before the couple were to be married on Saturday.

“While they were in the hospital doing surgeries, I was working on postponing cakes and kegs and DJs,” West said.

“Anybody who gets up in a tree, it’s very much appreciated because you know not a lot of people like to do it anymore because it’s such a dangerous industry to be in,” Richardson said.

Workplace fatalities reached an all-time high in 2021, the last year data is available. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a worker died every 101 minutes in 2021 from a work-related injury. Agriculture and Forestry ranked third on that list with 453 deaths.

Richardson’s coworkers believe his lifeline came loose as he was climbing to cut an old tree to keep it from falling on a woman’s home.

His son says it’s all he needed to see to never get in a tree again, but a climber-in-training who also witnessed the fall says the accident won’t stop him.

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“I’m still going to do it because somebody has to, and I’m just that freak person. I like it up there,” Casas said.

West says Richardson didn’t have insurance. A GoFundMe page has been established to help with medical bills. To donate, click here.

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