By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — An Amesbury family will be featured in the first episode of “Urban Ax Men” — a new reality show set to debut this summer on the National Geographic Channel.
The new show will follow a team of tree cutters as they go into suburban neighborhoods around the country to help residents cut down trees that pose a hazard to the home and family. One of the show’s producers was reportedly involved with “Deadliest Catch,” and many of the cameramen have worked on shows like “Survivor.”
Yesterday, the tree cutters and a whole production crew were in town to film the removal of a 100-foot white pine tree from the front yard of Andrew Ghezzi’s residence at 14 Unicorn Circle.
Ghezzi said the targeted tree had been dropping big limbs and was starting to scare his two kids.
“Two weeks ago, we had the snowstorm and my daughter was like, ‘I don’t want to go out and play, Dad, it’s too dangerous out there,’” Ghezzi said. “That’s when I got on the phone and started calling all of these tree companies.”
The family’s anxiety around the tree wasn’t without good reason. Roughly eight years ago, Ghezzi’s son, Ryan, who was 2 at the time, was nearly killed after an old maple tree in their yard snapped, fell and landed on his head.
“We were walking and it happened randomly,” Ghezzi said, adding that many trees in the area had been weakened not long before by a big windstorm. “It was like a ticking time bomb.”
Ryan suffered multiple skull fractures, hemorrhaging and was clinically dead for a period of time, his father said. He was in the intensive care unit for a while, but eventually made a full recovery.
Ghezzi quickly had what was left of the maple tree removed. But recently, the big white pine tree started to become a problem, too. Every time a limb fell, it was like a “cascade of hell,” Ghezzi said, and on one occasion, a giant branch fell and crushed his Ford F-150, which was parked in the driveway a good 30 or 40 feet away from the trunk.
The bad luck with trees was particularly troublesome for the Ghezzis considering that the family moved to Amesbury from New York City right after Sept. 11. The thinking was that Amesbury would be safer, and the family could do something fun with the trees in their new yard.
“There was a big tree and we figured, ‘OK, we can have some tree forts in that,’ but it hasn’t turned out like that,” Ghezzi said.
Once the tree got to the point that it made his children afraid to go outside into the yard, Ghezzi knew that it had to go. As luck would have it, when he went online to look for a tree removal service, he came upon a Craigslist ad looking for problem trees to feature in a new reality show.
“I contacted them and they immediately called me back,” Ghezzi said. “They were like, ‘You’re kidding me, you had a tree that almost killed your son and you’ve got another tree that’s stepping up to the plate to cause more damage? We’re coming over there.’”
The show’s producers agreed to cut down the tree for free. Ghezzi estimates it would have cost him $5,000 to $8,000 to contract the job out.
The Ghezzis’ story seems to have really resonated with the people at National Geographic.
“The guys who are putting this show together, this is the kind of story they want,” Ghezzi said. “They want instances where you’re not just taking a tree down or making a yard look pretty, it’s a hazard that’s got to go.”
Ghezzi still struggles to get over what happened to his son, but said the tree being cut down provides an immense sense of closure for him and his family. It also helps that Ryan, now 9, is healthy and has a fascination with wood chippers, frequently drawing them, building them with Legos and watching them work on YouTube.
“He thinks chipper guys are gods,” Ghezzi said.