Lakeland, Florida - A Polk County school crossing guard died after tumbling from a tree at his church Saturday during a tree trimming accident. It happened while Stephen Pederson, of Lakeland, was trimming trees around 8 a.m. Saturday morning at the All Faith Baptist Church at 302 Longfellow Boulevard in Lakeland.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office says he fell over 20 feet.
Investigators say witnesses explain that Pederson was using an electric saw up in a tree until the limbs hit a power line and the saw lost power.
They say that's when Pederson climbed down the tree with his equipment and as he approached the ladder he removed his safety harness, lost his footing and fell to the ground. John Auman, a witness says, "He was very religious. His last words were thank you Jesus for waking me up. He kept on thanking Jesus."
Pederson was initially conscious and alert. He was rushed to the hospital but his condition became worse and he died at Lakeland Regional Medical Center.
He was hired in November 2011 and was assigned to Combee Elementary School. He helped students cross at the intersection of Woodland Avenue and Morgan Combee Road.
Detectives say the incident appears to be accidental, however, the investigation remains open pending autopsy results.
Tammie Fields, 10 News