The family of a tree surgeon and father of three who died after plunging 20ft in a “freak accident” said today that he was loved by everybody.
John Hilden, 38, fell while pruning the last of 11 trees in the garden of a five-bedroom home in Hornchurch, east London, on Saturday.
The client’s daughter, a doctor, rushed outside to give CPR to Mr Hilden. But the experienced tree surgeon, who ran JL Tree Services, was pronounced dead at the scene. His fiancée is pregnant with his fourth child.
Mr Hilden’s mother Tina O’Connor today described her son as a “brilliant” man. She told the Evening Standard: “He was handsome and loved by all. He was a very loving father, he lived for his children.
“Nobody would ever say a bad word against him and he would never, ever say anything about anybody.” She said Mr Hilden, who lived in Wickford, was a “very talented” tree surgeon who had worked in the field for 20 years. She added: “He loved his work. The business was handed down from my father and he brought it up. He just worked, he just loved tree surgery.”
Zahra Moghul, the client, said Mr Hilden had just climbed the final tree, which was 20ft, when she heard a loud noise and cries for help.
She said: “The tree was inside the neighbours’ garden overhanging our fence, so I asked him to chop it back. We had been chatting in the garden and then he turned and climbed the tree.
“He had cut back 10 trees already which were 50ft high. It was the last one to do and by far the smallest. I was inside and heard a big sound and heard him scream. I called an ambulance.
“We think that he fell from the tree and hit the fence, but we aren’t sure. It was a freak accident.”
Mrs Moghul’s husband, a GP in Romford, was inside the house at the time. Their daughter, who was sleeping upstairs after a night shift, rushed to give Mr Hilden CPR before the emergency services arrived.
Mrs Moghul said they were devastated by Mr Hilden’s death: “John was more than a tree surgeon. He came to us every year to prune the trees. He was like family to us.
“He worked for three years in the garden and we would chat every day. You cannot imagine how this feels.”
She added: “He was a happy man. He told me last week he had moved into a new house with his fiancée. He was so proud and looking forward to the future. I cannot believe this happened.”
A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said the death was being treated as unexplained and not suspicious. The Health and Safety Executive has been made aware, she added.