A logger working on a controversial tree removal project near St. Maries died Tuesday after he was hit by a tree he was felling.
Lee R. Olson, 48, of St. Maries, died just hours before officials temporarily called the project off to protect bald eagles.
Olson was helping to remove cottonwood trees from along the St. Joe River Tuesday afternoon.
The trees are being removed at the insistence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which says that trees undermine the strength of the dikes in the area. Flooding hit the area hard last winter and was due in part to dike failure.
Lee, who was working for Two Rivers Construction, was cutting down a tree when it got hung up and didn’t fall, said Ron Hodge, Benewah County coroner.
The loggers used a crane to try and jiggle the tree free. Olson went back up to the tree to cut it again with his chain saw when the base suddenly came up and struck him in the chest and head, Hodge said.
Olson was rushed to Benewah Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Logging was temporarily stopped on the St. Joe a few hours later Tuesday because of concern over disturbing the bald eagle population that uses the trees. Logging is scheduled to resume on March 1 when migratory eagles should be gone.
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