Two Portland-area arborists killed last week when a hydraulic boom-lift toppled over at the Pickathon music festival site in Happy Valley have been identified, and a memorial fund was established to help their families.
Brad Swet, 35, and Brandon Blackmore, 27, were killed around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 8, at Pendarvis Farm on Hagen Road while removing ropes from trees supporting a shade system array by Portland-based GuildWorks.
Pickathon organizers and GuildWorks have established the Brad Swet and Brandon Blackmore Memorial Fund to support the families and serve as the public memorial. Funds raised will be split evenly between the families. Swet's family will use the funds to help cover funeral expenses and conserve timber land in his name, while Blackmore's family will donate funds toward nature conservancy programs in his name.
"This memorial fund gives us all a way to honor these valuable and beloved members of our communities and their love of the outdoors," GuildWorks leaders said in a statement on Wednesday, Aug. 14.
Clackamas County Sheriff's Office investigators said Swet and Blackmore had ascended in the hydraulic boom lift before climbing further up trees to get to ropes holding up the complex shade installation above the festival's main Mount Hood Stage. They were wearing safety equipment and roped to the boom lift, which was reportedly positioned on an incline, and approximately 40 feet in the air when the boom lift tilted and fell.
Still roped to the boom, Swet and Blackmore were pulled to the ground with considerable force. Attempts at CPR were unsuccessful, the sheriff's office reported.
Pickathon, which features dozens of musical acts on multiple stages in a rustic fair-like setting each August, had concluded this year's event late Sunday night, Aug. 4.
Swet was an independent contractor with GuildWorks for seven years and has worked the Pickathon event for three years as tree crew lead. A certified arborist and owner of Foster Trees, he was described as being passionate about trees and how best to maintain their health and natural beauty, having a deep love for the outdoors and limitless energy as well as being a gifted leader, mentor and friend with a rare confidence and wisdom.
Blackmore, who has been a GuildWorks employee since 2017, was described by colleagues as someone was was "rock steady and truthful, always calm and quick to laugh," approaching every situation with a great sense of humor and positive attitude.
His mission, colleagues said, was to create experiences that matter, make something special and encouraged everyone to "enjoy the ride."
Known for their professionalism, creative thinking, and dedication to their craft, Swet and Blackmore — both Portland-area residents — were great friends who shared an unusual bond, GuildWorks associates said. They loved being in the trees together, looked forward to installing at Pickathon each year and were proud of their work.
"We are shocked and devastated by this terrible accident and the loss of two amazing people
in our close community," said Mar Ricketts, principal of GuildWorks, a Portland design, fabrication and installation firm specializing in innovative fabric structures. "Our focus at the moment is in supporting the families as well as helping our co-workers."
Several agencies reported to the accident scene, including Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Patrol deputies and CSI technicians, Clackamas Fire District No. 1, the Clackamas County Medical Examiner's Office, Happy Valley Police Department and American Medical Response.
The owner of Pendarvis Farm is cooperating with authorities as investigators work on the site. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials were called to the scene to further investigate the accident.
The Medical Examiner's Office determined that the fatalities are likely accidental deaths.
"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of two members of the GuildWorks crew during breakdown of this year's festival," Pickathon organizers said in a statement last week. "Please join us in offering up prayers and support to their families and friends during this difficult time. All involved in Pickathon are like members of a family to us. We will wrap our collective arms around all affected and share in the grieving process. Please stay connected to (Pickathon.com) as we work to provide support to the families."
To donate to the Brad Swet and Brandon Blackmore Memorial Fund, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/brad-swet-and-brandon-blackmore-memorial-fund
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