A terrible workplace tragedy has claimed the life of a young Gastonia man after he fell into a wood chipper during his first day on the job, while his boss suffered a heart attack after witnessing the accident. Family members say the 19-year-old man was only filling in with the Belmont tree service when the fatal accident occurred.
The victim has been identified as Mason Cox, 19, from Gastonia. According to local media reports, Cox had just started working for Crawford’s Tree and Stump Grinding Service, and last Saturday was his first day on the job.
Investigators said no one witnessed Cox get pulled into the wood chipper. Jon Crawford, the owner of the business, suffered a heart attack at the scene and had to be rushed to the hospital, police said.
According to Kings Mountain Police, the accident happened at 402 Hawthorne Road in Kings Mountain. When officers arrived on scene they found Cox inside the wood chipper. The family says it was Cox’s first day on the job with Crawford’s Tree and Stump Grinding Service. Cox reportedly was pulled in feet-first, but no one saw the accident, police said. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
Alice Neal has been haunted by the disturbing thought of her grandson being dragged into the wood chopper. “How could this happen to such a vibrant, young gentleman?” Neal asked. She also told reporters: “He was very easygoing, a good kid,” she said. “He wanted everything to be good all of the time, and if it wasn’t good, he would try to make it good. If there was something wrong in the world, he thought he could make it OK.”
Officers determined the incident was accidental, and no foul play was suspected. Cox was putting tree limbs into the wood chipper when Crawford heard the machine get bogged down. Crawford hit the kill switch and put the machine in reverse; however, he could not save Cox from getting pulled into the machine.
Coworkers who saw Cox’s body became emotional. They started ‘running around, ripping off their gloves and hats’. Neighbors, who did not know what had happened, thought the crew was being attacked by bees.
Cox’s family was stunned. They have received constant calls of support since his death. Cox had graduated from Ashbrook High School in May. He’d also attended Bessemer City High School after moving back to Gaston County from Greenwood, South Carolina. He had plans to study sports medicine, but took a break from school after graduation. His mother, Debra Neal Sisk, says he became interested in the health care field after suffering several injuries in sports.