LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Jan. 8, 2013 update: The mother of Craig Benavidez, 52, who was severely shocked by a power line on Monday, told ABC-7 he has been moved out of an intensive care unit at an El Paso hospital and is awake, alert, and talking.
Jan 7, 2013 story: A Las Cruces arborist is in critical condition after he was severely shocked by a power line. This isn't the first serious accident he's had while on the job in the last six months.
Coworkers at the scene told ABC-7's New Mexico Mobile Newsroom that Craig Benavidez, 52, was trimming a tree when he came in contact with a nearby power line.
"It happened so fast. By the time we looked down and looked back up he was dangling already. That's how fast it happened," coworker Ruben Gutierrez told ABC-7.
Gutierrez said it took more than half an hour for El Paso Electric to arrive and shut off the power so they could cut him down. Coworkers described that as the most agonizing time of their lives.
"We were getting really mad because dangling by your back like that's gotta hurt. We couldn't get up there to get him down for our safety," Gutierrez said.
A spokesman for the Las Cruces Police Department said Benavidez was flown to University Medical Center in El Paso in critical condition.
Witnesses said Benavidez was breathing on his own and screaming in pain as he was placed on a stretcher. They also said Benavidez had burn marks on his feet.
After the horrifying morning, Benavidez's coworkers continued to clean the yard and finish the job. They said they had to finish what they started.
A sign on Benavidez's work truck claims he has 30 years of experience. Gutierrez called this a "freak accident," saying they all had training on working near power lines.
Dorothy Wells, the public safety and community development coordinator for El Paso Electric, said it's important that people be aware of their surroundings when cutting trees.
"The most important thing I can tell everybody is if you do have trees that come within 10 feet of our power lines, you need to call the company and what we do is we send a contractor out there and they will trim those trees back," Wells told ABC-7.
Benavidez's coworkers said he's like "a cat with nine lives." This incident comes just months after Benavidez was attacked and stung hundreds of times by Africanized bees. He was unable to flee the swarm because he was trapped in his harness.