Woman hiking with son killed by fallen tree in Cupertino; incident underscores storm concerns

Amanda del Castillo Image
Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Cupertino trail death underscores storm concerns
A woman was killed by a falling tree during a Boy Scouts hike in Cupertino on Sunday. The death, is now underscoring danger with the incoming storms.

CUPERTINO, Calif. (KGO) -- A woman who was killed by a fallen tree during a hiking trip in Cupertino on Sunday has been identified by the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office. On Monday, authorities said the victim is Vidyut Nautiyal, 44, of San Jose.

Nautiyal was on a planned hike with a Boy Scouts troop, an executive with the organization confirmed Sunday evening. Reports say the woman was hiking with her 17-year old son.

The incident happened at around 10 a.m. Sunday at Rancho San Antonio County Park, the Santa Clara County Fire Department said.

VIDEO: Woman killed by fallen tree in South Bay was parent at planned hiking trip, Boy Scouts confirm

A woman was killed by a falling tree during a hike in Cupertino on Sunday, officials said.

On Monday, Nautiyal was described by family members as polite, kindhearted and social. Those close to her told ABC7 News, grief and sorrow have engulfed them.

The victim had ties to San Jose State. The university confirmed Nautiyal graduated in 2009 with a Master's in Nutritional Science.

Sunday morning, she was with her son and others when tragedy struck.

"All the trails have a tree close by. So it's not like something you can really prevent," Cupertino resident Massimiliano de Zambotti told ABC7 News as he visited the park on Monday.

News of Nautiyal's death was shocking, but not surprising to many hikers who spoke with ABC7, though Midpeninsula Regional Open Space officials said the death was the first incident of its kind in the district's 50-year history.

MORE: Family mourns 2-year-old killed by falling tree during bomb cyclone

They're also urging visitors to use caution on trails in natural areas, which they say continue to be impacted by unprecedented storms this winter.

"I was in Burlingame and I was running with my wife," de Zambotti described. "And actually, a tree fell down when we were running, ahead of us. Probably, I don't know, 400 meters ahead."

Countless stories of close calls at other open space areas, experienced by many who chose to brave these trails on Monday.

Park visitor Katrine Razniak said, "It was a couple days after a big storm. It was, yeah. And it was a pretty large branch too. And I walked right underneath it a couple minutes beforehand and I heard kind of like a creaking sound, and it just completely fell. It was a big branch."

Adjunct professor of Meteorology at SJSU Jan Null said after the collective storm systems hit the Bay Area over the last few months, the soil is saturated, roots are saturated, and it won't take much to topple more trees.

VIDEO: These are the warning signs your tree may fall during next storm

Arborists shares what you need to look out for to see if your tree may fall during the next bout of California atmospheric river storms.

"You're not going to need the 50 to 60 mile per hour winds we saw earlier in the winter. We're gonna see, you know, 20s and 30s, maybe some 40s," Null shared. "But that could be enough with the right set of circumstances."

San Jose resident Nathan Bayardo explained, "In the general area, there's gonna be some water runoff. I mean, more branches and I don't know, kind of like other oddities as well. But I mean, you just got to keep your eye out while running and everything, or hiking."

Sunday morning's fatal tree fall happened along the Stephen E. Abbors Trail. As of Monday evening, part of the trail remained closed.

On Sunday, Capt. Matt Mokhtarian with the Santa Clara County Fire Department said bystanders tried to lift the fallen tree off of the hiker, but were unsuccessful.

Firefighters were able to remove the tree off her, but she died at the scene.

No one else in the group was injured.

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