Woman killed by tree branch in freak accident

April 15, 2008 12:21:25 AM PDT
There was no warning whatsoever in San Francisco's Stern Grove Monday morning for a woman crushed by a giant tree limb. It broke loose from a Redwood tree in Stern Grove in the Sunset District.

A large limb suddenly broke off from a redwood tree just above the woman's parked car. Police say she was standing behind her station wagon when the limb fell, part of it crushing her.

The woman was rushed to the hospital where she died.

A park worker told ABC7 she recognized the woman as a professional dog walker who was a regular at Stern Grove. On this day, she had three dogs, which are now in the custody of Animal Control.

The worker says the woman always left her car at the parking lot, adjacent to the outdoor concert meadow, and walked her animals to the dog run across the way.

Robert Shapiro lives nearby. He, too, usually walks his dog Charlie in Stern Grove. He says park workers recently began working on the trees on the other side of the concert meadow.

"This is shocking because they have been really working on this grove. They chopped down and really cleaned up the other area -- not this as much," says Shapiro.

It was a windy day there at Stern Grove. At nearby Fort Funston, winds were recorded at 33 miles an hour. They may have helped bring down the limb of the 40-year-old redwood.

Worker cutbacks, caused by budget constraints, may have affected the maintenance of trees. These are questions that California Park and Recreation spokesperson Rose Dennis says will be investigated.

"We're going to put together an incident report so we can better determine if the tree had had any specific circumstances that we would need to be aware of beyond what we initially know, which is, it of course appears to be a fluke," says Dennis.

Pedestrians will still be able to enjoy Stern Grove while the investigation goes on, but the grove will be closed to all vehicular traffic for the next two days.

With the concerts starting there in June, California Parks and Recreation wants to reassure visitors that this park is safe. That makes the investigation into Monday's tragic accident even more important.


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