Beetle-infested tree falls, kills Granby man next to his truck in Grand Lake |

Beetle-infested tree falls, kills Granby man next to his truck in Grand Lake

Will Bublitz
Grand County, Colorado
Courtesy National Park Service

In a freak accident on Friday, Oct. 24, a Granby, Colorado, man died after a pine beetle-killed tree toppled over and crushed him.

Kevin Pellini, 43, was pronounced dead at the scene in Grand Lake. Grand County Coroner Brenda Bock said the cause of death was “massive head injuries.”

Pellini was an independent logging contractor and owner of Gold Run Forestry. He is survived by his wife and two children.

According to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, its dispatch center received a 9-1-1 call at 3:42 p.m. Friday from a Grand Lake resident who reported that an “unconscious man was lying on the ground next to a log truck and appeared to have been struck by a falling tree.”

Grand County EMS paramedics, Grand Lake Fire firefighters and Grand County Sheriff’s deputies rushed to the accident scene on Jericho Road along the lake’s southern shore. Paramedics attempted to revive Pellini using CPR, but he was pronounced dead at 5:10 p.m.

Reports are that Pellini was working on a logging operation in the area, but was only collecting slash Friday afternoon. The pine beetle-killed tree apparently toppled over when its root system gave way during windy conditions.

“It just fell over,” said Coroner Brenda Bock, who said the tree had uprooted itself. “The dead tree’s root system was so shallow that it didn’t take much for it to fall over.”

Former Park employee

Before becoming an independent logging contractor, Pellini had worked for Rocky Mountain National Park for several years. In a press release issued Monday, Park Superintendent Vaughn Baker said staff members are mourning his death.

“It was with profound sadness that the staff of RMNP learned of the death of former co-worker, Kevin Pellini, last Friday” Baker said.

“Kevin Pellini was a cherished colleague and friend who brought great enthusiasm and a can-do attitude to everything he did. Thousands of park visitors have benefited from the work Kevin did to improve the trails on the west side of RMNP.

“Kevin will be fondly remembered for his larger than life presence and his dedication to his work, his community and his family and friends. He met his wife Sonya while they both were working at the park.

“Kevin began in the trails program at RMNP directly from high school at age 18, and worked in the program for twenty-three years from 1983 to 2006. He led the park’s westside trails program from 1992 to 2006, when he left the park to start his own business.

“The park family extends our deepest sympathies to the Pellini family, especially Sonya, daughter Gabrielle and son Russell.”

First beetle-kill fatality

Friday’s accident was the first reported fatality involving a falling tree that had died as a result of the ongoing pine beetle epidemic in Grand County. Over the past few years, other incidents involving beetle-killed trees falling and causing property damage have been reported.

Two weeks prior to last week’s fatal accident, a Grand Lake-area man narrowly escaped serious injury or death when another pine beetle-killed tree collapsed on him.

On Saturday, Oct. 11, 61-year-old Kelley McGuiness was walking down County Road 443 when he heard a “loud snap” behind him and caught a glimpse of the tree crashing down on top of him. The tree struck him on the back, knocking him to the ground.

He escaped with only minor injuries.

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