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Child labor laws didn't save Palatka teen

Reported by: Jamie Smith
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Updated: 8/15/2013 12:14 am
MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- State and federal child labor laws were enacted to protect people like 14-year-old Jimmy Bryant.

He's the Clay County teen who fell 50 feet to his death Tuesday while working for a Palatka tree service.

Brandon Baggs told Action News that Jimmy was his best friend. He said he warned Jimmy just last week that climbing trees was dangerous work.

"He knowed it was dangerous. And he knowed he shouldn't have been up there. But he was just doing it for the money," he said.

How and why a 14-year-old was working on a job that killed him is the subject of an ongoing investigation by Clay County, state and federal authorities because child labor laws prohibit that type of work for minors.

Friends and family describe Jimmy Blake Bryant as a good old country boy. At just 14 years old, they say he was hard worker who wanted to learn to climb and chop down tall trees.

Jimmy Bryant died Tuesday after investigators say he climbed a tree with a chainsaw. Clay County Sheriff's investigators say he accidentally cut his safety harness, and fell 50 feet to the ground. They say he was working at a Middleburg home for John Wilkes Tree Removal based in Palatka.

Action News has learned Bryant was not old enough under Florida law to be operating a chainsaw in that type of situation.

OSHA is investigating the incident along with the Clay County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Labor.

The victim's family members tell Action News the teenager had known the Wilkes family his whole life and that they don't blame the company for what they call "a freak accident."

The Clay County Sheriff's Office is still trying to decide if criminal charges will be filed in Jimmy Bryant's death.

To see a breakdown of the state child labor regulations, click here.

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imtellin - 8/15/2013 10:25 AM
1 Vote
how much were they paying him ??? have they sent his last check to his family ??? was he paid overtime after 40 hours ??? was he on the books ??? did he have health insurance ??? and finally, what in the hell were the owners thinking allowing a kid of 14, to climb a tree with a chainsaw ??? i'ld have to say stupidity has just gotten a new poster child,, middleburg !!! why stop at a chainsaw 50 feet in the air,, hell a flamethrower would have accomplished the same result !!! dynamite would have accomplished the same result !!! didn't have a trakhoe handy ??? bottom line is yeah, they were trying to man the kid up,, i get it... problem is, he wasn't their kid !!! they don't get to make those decisions... as for charges,, CLAY COUNTY,,, HOW ABOUT ENDANGERING THE SAFETY & WELFARE OF A CHILD UNDER 16 YEARS OLD, RESULTING IN THE DEATH OF SAID CHILD !!! WHAT'S THE PROBBLEM WITH THAT CHARGE FOR STARTERS ??? OR IS THE GOOD OLE BOY NETWORK TRYING TO MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK ON THURSDAY ???

taxi69 - 8/15/2013 9:06 AM
0 Votes
NativeJax - from previous reports, this child lived with his uncle, not parents. I wonder how much the uncle pushed this kid to get a job regardless of the situation.

nativejax - 8/15/2013 7:53 AM
0 Votes
I would think the boys parents knew he was doing this and would have stopped him. I would not have let my boy operate a chainsaw on the ground at 14, must less 50 ft in the sad.
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