January 18, 2006
The tree that fell on the SUV was a large oak tree. The 75-year-old tree had a trunk that was at least four feet wide. As News 12 reports, tree experts say this accident possibly could have been prevented.
Neighbors say this was bound to happen.
“This tree here back about 7 or 8 months ago limbs fell out the tree here and tore these telephone lines down,” said Willie Lynch, neighbor.
But Tuesday it wasn’t just limbs but the whole tree, weighing tons that fell over. And this time there were deadly results. Rhonda and Ken West were killed when the tree fell on their SUV as they drove down Telfair Street. Rhonda’s brother Randy Wheelis had to see the damage for himself.
“When I recognized the vehicle I seen that tear in the tire cover, I knew that was her,” Randy said.
Assistant Director of Public Services Derek Vanover says this was severe.
“This is the worse cast of anything I’ve known in 25 years. I haven’t been here that long, but some of our crews have and they haven’t experienced anything like this,” Derek said.
The Trees and Landscape Department says there’s a combination of things of why this tree toppled over: soft soil, heavy winds, and a hazard that most people would not recognize.
“This English Ivy just acts like a big cell actually when the wind comes through it’s just holding on and these roots are actually think and it will help weigh it down and it appears to be the situation here,” Vanover said.
And while you may have big trees like this in your yard, getting rid of heavy vines and any extra weight is key.
“Actually you want to cut it so that it’s a gap, secure at least an inch gap in between the stem growing up then it will start to die and decline out,” Vanover said.
And perhaps by doing that, this may never happen again.
The tree was on private property and we’ve seen some other tree topplings in the past. October 2005 and an incident back in 1998 were similar when trees fell on cars after heavy winds. No one was hurt in those prior incidents.