By Christiane Cordero

RICHFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — A man suddenly killed at a landscaping job leaves behind six children and a community that considered him family.

Police say 51-year-old Bill Pipes was killed Wednesday when a fellow landscaper was trying to unclog a wood chipper. A piece of metal flew off and hit him in the head.

The owner of Victory Tree Service, Chris Bratvold, says he started the company years ago, but the “service” part took a new meaning when he met Pipes in 2017.

They bonded, Bratvold says, over faith and healing a troubled past.

“He talked about his kids a lot,” Bratvold said. “He cared about them a lot, and he wanted to grow in relationship with them again.”

He never got to it.

Bratvold says he was driving Wednesday when he got the call saying something went wrong at a job in Richfield.

“And on the way there, I had been calling Bill, calling Bill, [and] finally I got a return call from the police officer stating that there had been a fatality and that Bill was gone,” Bratvold said.

Richfield police say investigators are waiting for results from the coroner to decide whether to conduct an investigation.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, however, has started one of its own.

Bratvold says he too wants to know what went wrong and believes it could have been prevented, because he thinks the employee working alongside Pipes tried unclogging the machine with the machine still turned on.

“The unit should have been shut off before opening the disc,” Bratvold said.

As he works to move on personally and professionally, the man who found a friend through faith now has to put his faith in questions that don’t yet have answers.

“I don’t feel like it was Bill’s time to go,” Bratvold said. “But that could be my own personal struggle. But the fact of the matter is, he’s in glory right now…and I’m a little jealous. You know, he [has] no more pain and no more stress.”

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