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Runaway tractor kills man, 71, working to remove stump

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH
  • Star Tribune
  • November 15, 2008 - 12:29 AM

A 71-year-old man was run over by a runaway tractor and killed Friday morning while helping to remove a tree stump from a home in Denmark Township, authorities and a witness said.

Eugene J. Becker of Hastings was dead at the scene, a house in the 13200 block of Douglas Drive S., the Washington County Sheriff's Office said. The death, which occurred about 10 a.m., "appears to be an accident," the Sheriff's Office added in its news release.

"I looked out the [living room] window right when it rolled over him," said Erin Pace, the homeowner. "It all happened within seconds. Then it rolled off of him, and he passed shortly after I got outside."

Pace said the engine was running on the tractor as it was chained to a stump in attempt to pull it out. When one of the three men working at the home took an ax to the roots, "that tractor started going backward" on a slight incline toward the street. "[Becker] turned around and went after it."

Pace said she needed help removing two trees that gave in to high winds last week, one on her home and the other on a neighbor's garage. The removal work began last week, but the service needed to send out the tractor Friday after an earlier effort to uproot the stump with a pickup truck failed, she said.

Becker was not employed by the tree removal service that was hired, Pace said.

"He was just a friend of the owner and doing him a favor," she said. "He knew how to drive that tractor."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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