PALATKA, Fla. -- 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.
Brandon Baggs said 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," said Baggs. "He thought he had it in him, that he could do it. And I guess he was trying to prove a point."
Jimmy Bryant died Tuesday after investigators say he climbed a tree with a chainsaw. They say he accidentally cut his safety harness, and fell 50 feet to the ground. They say he was working at a Middleburg home with 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. So we wanted to know, who let him up there?
We started working the phones, first dialing the tree removal company. So far, we haven't been able to reach the person in charge.
Then we contacted OSHA, who is investigating the incident along with the Clay County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Labor. The area director told us the company had no history of complaints and that OSHA was checking to see if it was properly licensed.
Bryant's grieving family told us, "He wanted to learn how to climb trees. Which he's been learning since he was 10 years old."
They said 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."
Brandon Baggs said, "Jimmy cared about people. A lot of people didn't know that. But Jimmy cared a lot, about everybody."
He said he and Jimmy did everything together and that he'll miss his best friend.
The Clay County Sheriff's Office is still trying to decide if criminal charges will be filed in Jimmy Bryant's death.