UC Berkeley campus inspecting trees following fatal accident

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- As the Bay Area prepares for more rain, work continues on the U.C. Berkeley campus to remove trees that might pose a public safety risk.

This follows the fatal accident of a Novato man when a tree came crashing down during Sunday's rainstorm.

The work is grueling: chopping down massive trees, breaking limbs and putting them through a wood chipper.

A dozen or so trees are either coming down or being trimmed on the U.C. Berkeley campus.

RELATED: Tree falls, kills Novato man on UC Berkeley campus

"We did remove two pine trees over here. They were infested with pine bark beetles and it had to come out anyway," said Brian Gates, an arborist and general engineering contractor with Expert Tree Service.

Campus tree inspections intensified following Sunday's fatal accident. A 250-foot eucalyptus tree was uprooted from its foundation during the rainstorm, falling on a vehicle, killing the man inside.

Authorities say Alexander Grant, 32, was killed.

"I kind of figured there's going to be something happening because these trees are really old," said Natalie Thung, a lab manager on campus. "Every time there's high wind, the trees are going back and forth."

RELATED: Powerful wind gusts up to 70 mph cause flooding, down trees, power lines across Bay Area

The tree alone weighed thousands of pounds but because of the velocity, it weighed thousands of tons as it came crashing down, according to Gates.

"I walk this route very regularly, almost every day, and the idea that you could just be walking along and the next minute there's a tree, it's very scary," said graduate student Sonia Travaglini.

Campus officials say they're taking steps to assess tree maintenance and make sure there's no public safety threat.

An arborist says the tree that fell was a healthy one. "That was unusual for a big healthy green eucalyptus tree to fall like that," said Gates.

Experts are trying to determine what went wrong. Campus officials say they will remove trees that are deemed unsafe but have been in the middle of a major tree maintenance project during winter break.

The work is expected to be completed by the time students return from break next week.
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