Meth cited in landscaper’s death

A landscaper who died while trimming a palm tree last month was killed by methamphetamine in his system — not from suffocation, as first believed, the Clark County coroner’s office determined.

Carl Barker, 45, died while trimming dead fronds from a towering palm tree on the 1600 block of East Twain Avenue on a hot April 30 afternoon. He was hired by the homeowner to trim six palm trees and landscape the lawn, the homeowner said.

When he began trimming the last tree, witnesses said the tree skirt fell on him, and he died shortly after.

It took more than half an hour for emergency responders to cut his harness and get him down from the tree.

On Friday his mother said she hadn’t heard about the medical examiner’s determination and was skeptical.

“I don’t believe that,” said 66-year-old Carroll Barker. “They’re going to have to show me that.”

She said her son, who had done landscaping work off and on since childhood, had drug issues when he was younger but not recently. He had dropped friends recently because they were drug users, she said.

Barker was a Western High School graduate who worked for 19 years as a line cook for Red Lobster, and he recently worked for President Barack Obama’s campaign, collecting signatures and going door to door, his mother said.

He took the landscaping job because he needed work, and Carroll Barker believes he died from suffocation or exhaustion.

“If you understood Carl, and he starts working, he forgets to eat, he forgets to drink, he just works to get the job done,” she said.

A witness said Carl Barker was working furiously on the last tree and sweating heavily just before he died. A friend had gone to get water for him moments before he died.

“He was a good, hardworking man,” she said.

Authorities initially believed he had suffocated. A tree trimmer in Phoenix died from suffocation under similar circumstances in March.

Carroll Barker said the homeowner has refused to pay for her son’s work.

Services for Carl Barker are today at the Desert Memorial at 1111 Las Vegas Blvd. N. Viewing will be from 1 to 2 p.m., followed by services.

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