Setauket arborist Erik Halvorsen, 45, died Monday, following a tragic accident while working on a tree in Avalon Park & Preserve in Stony Brook.
The owner of Norse Tree Service Inc. was approximately 50 feet up in a tree while attempting to cut it down at approximately 11:15 a.m., according to Suffolk County Police. The trunk splintered and trapped him against the tree. Halvorsen, who was wearing a safety harness, attempted to free himself and fell 20 feet. An employee was able to lower Halvorsen to the ground. He was transported via St. James Fire Department ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the death, although no foul play is suspected. This is standard procedure in workplace deaths, police said.
George Powers, former owner of the Hither Brook Nursery in St. James, recalled his customer’s work ethic and expertise.
“[Erik] was very good at what he did — he was not a cowboy,” Powers said in a phone interview. “He took all the precautions. And then this happened anyway.”
A woman who came to the door at the Avalon office on Harbor Road in Stony Brook declined to comment, but Avalon’s Leadership Program Director Katharine Griffiths issued a statement later Tuesday morning on behalf of her entire staff.
“Erik was a friend to many of us at the park,” Griffiths wrote in an email Tuesday. “We are heartbroken over this tragic accident. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and his many friends.”
Halvorsen did a great deal of work for The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in Stony Brook. President Gloria Rocchio expressed her horror at the accident and her admiration for the man.
“We worked with Erik for years in Stony Brook,” she said. “He was very sensitive. When we did work on the village green, he designed [the landscape]. It was like an art form, what he did. Everyone was very happy with the result. He was very passionate. All of us here at The Ward Melville Heritage Organization are devastated. He was a great man.”
“Erik was by far one of the hardest working men we knew. He was one of the good guys, a person who would lend a helping hand without a second thought.”
The folks at Sheep Pasture Tree & Nursery Supply Inc., friends and neighbors of Norse Tree Service on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson Station, said he was very easy to recommend.
“Erik was by far one of the hardest working men we knew,” Laura Brown said in an email. “He was one of the good guys, a person who would lend a helping hand without a second thought. We easily recommended him to our customers because we knew he would do a good job. When he came into our office, he was always happy, fun to talk with and a gentleman. We will miss the days of him walking into our office at 5:45 a.m. to use our fax machine. We will miss him as will so many in our community.”
Bob Koch of Koch Tree Services reflected on the impact the incident has had on the community.
“I want everybody to know that the tree community is a very tight-knit family,” Koch said in a phone interview. “A tragedy like this affects everyone in it. Our hearts go out to Erik’s family. He was a wonderful young man. We all feel it when something like this happens.”
Powers shared an anecdote about Halvorsen that spoke to his character.
“He and his wife were on vacation on some island,” Powers recalled. “He saw a dog tied up in a very bad way. So he let it loose. The next day the dog was again tied up. So he adopted the dog and brought it home. He had to go through a lot of paperwork and paid to have [the dog] flown home. But that dog loved him. You could see it. He was just a good person.”
Halvorsen leaves a wife, Britt, and three children, Liv, Leif and Lilli.
A celebration of Erik’s life has been scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Old Field Club in Setauket. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Gerda’s Animal Aid Inc., a rescue organization run by Britt Halvorsen’s mother, at P.O. Box 1352, West Townshend, VT 05359, or by calling 802-874-7213.