The tree service worker "was standing at the back end of the chipper, throwing branches into it with his co-workers nearby," said Sgt. Pat Welch of the Tustin Police Department. "One of them looked over, and he was gone."
Authorities took the wood chipper and the truck to which it was attached to a parking structure at the Orange County coroner's office, where it was dismantled and Gonzales-Ferrer's remains removed. An autopsy is scheduled today to confirm the cause of death "and rule out anything else, including foul play," supervising deputy coroner Leslie Meader said.
There was no immediate evidence of a crime or that alcohol or drugs were involved, Welch said.
"He was one of three workers trimming trees and removing debris from a private residence," he said. "One was in the tree and the other hauling debris. He was there and then he wasn't there; it was an unfortunate industrial accident."
The accident, which occurred about 4 p.m. Wednesday in the 2600 block of Palmetto, is being investigated by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, authorities said
Jose Martinez, owner of JM Tree Service in Anaheim where the men were employed, said Thursday that he was too distraught to talk. "I don't have an explanation to tell you," he said.
Thirty-one people were killed in wood-chipper accidents between 1992 and 2002, according to a 2005 report by the Journal of the American Medical Assn.
Times staff writer Tony Barboza contributed to this report.