Greenwich tree employee dies after motorcycle crash in Stamford

A Greenwich employee critically injured when his motorcycle collided with a pickup truck on Harvard Avenue in Stamford Friday, died of his injuries Sunday, Stamford police said Monday morning.

James McGee, 48, of 62 Bungalow Park, Stamford, was driving his two-month-old 2013 Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle home from his job as a tree climber with the Town of Greenwich and was headed south on Harvard Avenue at 4 p.m. when a Ford Explorer pickup truck driven by a 71-year-old man turned left in front of him.

The collision with the 2001 Explorer Sport Trac, that was being driven north on Harvard Avenue by William Little, caused McGee to fly off his motorcycle and land in the roadway.

The accident happened when Little was making a left turn onto Commerce Road, and mis-judged how far McGee, a 17-year resident of Stamford, was down the street when he made the turn.

McGee’s family said police told them that McGee, who was an arborist, avid skier, snow boarder and martial arts enthusiast, braked his front and rear wheels in order to swerve out of the way of the pickup, but was unable to clear the large vehicle in his path.

Sgt. Andrew Gallagher, who commands the police department’s Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Squad, said investigators Hugh Mullin and Jeffrey Booth will finish their investigation and forward their reports to the Stamford State’s Attorney’s office and prosecutors will determine if criminal charges will be filed against Little.

Gallagher said that Little has been very cooperative with his investigators.

Katy McGee, who came down from her home in Boston when she heard about the accident, said the collision snapped her brother’s neck and he would have been a quadriplegic if he survived.

Sitting in her brother’s living room, McGee said her brother had a taste for adventure, but was a very safe person and was wearing all the protective gear that he should have had on at the time of the accident.

“He was a little bit of a danger junkie but was able to parlay that into something that gave him money and helped the town. Jimmy loved Stamford and carved out a place here,” McGee said.

His sister said that Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei called to offer the family his condolences and said that the people working with trees are the public’s first line of defense during storms.

“He died doing what he loved. He was coming home from a job that he loved and was with a woman he loved and coming back to a dog he loved. He was coming back to his house and he was doing everything that he loved as far as we know,” McGee said.

McGee’s father James E. McGee, who lives in Sun City, Calfornia, said his son took an early interest in trees and went to school to learn more about them.

McGee, a retired U.S. diplomat and U.S. Army veteran, said that his son had been working for Greenwich and before that had his own business called Tree Pro, that he still operated on the side.

“He was a really good guy. Maybe that is a father talking, but he was a really good guy,” McGee said.

McGee had purchased the motorcycle in April, his father said. McGee said that his son, who was five-feet-ten inches tall and very muscular, was a very safety conscious person and showed a 60-foot line looped over the branch of a tall tree in his son’s back yard that he used to instruct other arborists how to climb trees safely. McGee also said his son went into New York City to teach people how to be an arborist and climber.

Katy McGee said it was the landing after being struck by the Explorer that killed her brother.

“No matter how safe you are, no matter how many precautions you take, you cant always be watching the other guy and the suit doesn’t protect the back of your neck,” she said.

Greenwich Park and Recreation Director Joseph Siciliano said McGee will be missed by the people he worked with.

He was one of eight tree climbers employed by the Town of Greenwich and had been working for the town since November 2012.

“He was a talented and skilled climber. He had the knowledge and experience prior to working for us and was a welcomed addition our tree climbing crew, Siciliano said. “The folks that he worked with spoke very highly of him as a climber and a person. The people he worked with will miss him very much. He will be missed for the person he was and the skills he brought to the job.”

McGee is survived by his sister and father. His mother Peg McGee died about 12 years ago.

McGee said there will be no funeral services for his son, but a memorial service is being planned for later in July.

Police are still investigating the accident, which shut down a West Side intersection for nearly three hours Friday. Anyone who witnessed or has information about the crash is asked to call the Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Squad, 203-977-4712.