Forestry worker's death could have been from heat

DYERSBURG, Tenn. (AP) - A state Forestry Division employee operating a bulldozer in Natchez Trace State Park has died and the hot weather may have contributed to his death.

Forestry officials say 72-year-old M.L. Hopper missed a scheduled radio contact at 11:15 yesterday morning. He was working in the backcountry, cutting fallen trees from overgrown trails and opening them to serve as firebreaks, which are used to help control wildfires.

The high temperature in the area near Wildersville was 99 degrees yesterday with a heat index of 107.

Searchers using a helicopter spotted clothing that turned out to be Hopper. Rescuers recovered his body about 6 p.m.

If Hopper's death is confirmed to be heat-related, his would be the 15th such death recorded in Tennessee during the current heat wave.

There have been 13 heat deaths in the Memphis area and one in Lebanon, east of Nashville.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)