by: Dave Faherty Updated:
CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. - Tuttle State Educational Forest in Lenoir was closed Thursday after a North Carolina Forest Service employee died in an accident there Wednesday afternoon.
Officials said 31-year-old education ranger Jimmy Halliburton attempted to use a tractor to push a tree out of a road when the tree snapped and slammed into his chest.
Halliburton was rushed to the hospital where he died.
"We are heartbroken over the loss of Jimmy Halliburton, and our prayers are with his family," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.
The forest service said Halliburton spoke to hundreds of school children over the years who came to Tuttle on field trips.
A resident of Morganton, Halliburton had worked for the Forest Service since November 2003 and at Tuttle since September 2007.
On Thursday, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials arrived on the scene to investigate the accident. Flags at the state park were flown at half-staff and people were stopping by the front gate to offer their condolences.
The Forest service said it may be the middle of next week before the state park reopens.