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Investigation Underway After Massive Tree Topples at Brookside Park in Pasadena, Injuring 2

Published on Thursday, August 6, 2020 | 11:07 am
photos of tree collapse from Pasadena FD

The city plans to bring in an independent arborist to determine what caused a massive eucalyptus tree to topple over at Brookside Park in Pasadena on Wednesday afternoon, causing minor injuries to two people who were beneath it, authorities said.

Four people were playing volleyball beneath the 100-foot-tall tree when it gave way, according to city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian. Authorities initially described the tree as more than two times taller.

“They heard a noise, saw that the tree was starting to fall and quickly moved aside,” Derderian said. “(Two of them) were brushed by the tree.”

A man and a woman, both estimated to be in their 20s, suffered injuries described as scratches and abrasions, as well as a possibly sprained ankle and a complaint of back pain. Neither person required treatment at a hospital, according to police and fire officials. Two other men who were part of the group were unhurt.

Firefighters cut the downed tree apart with chainsaws as they searched for any potential additional victims, but none were found, Derderian said. The eucalyptus tree had a circumference of about 8 feet.

City officials planned to hire an independent arborist to examine the scene “as soon as possible,” Derderian said.

“We need to determine a cause so that we can avoid this situation in the future,”she said.

Pasadena’s Urban Forestry division regularly examines all trees populating city property at least annually, if not more frequently, Derderian said. No issues with the tree that toppled on Wednesday had been reported.

“All of our thousands of trees throughout the city, on city property, are inspected on a regular basis and maintained to the highest level, as recommended,” said Derderian.

The mishap took place just a few dozen feet away from the spot where another tree collapsed at the same park just over five years ago, leaving eight children injured, two of them critically.

An 85-foot-tall Italian stone pine fell on top of a group of children as they were playing on July 28, 2015, officials said.

An arborist hired by the city to investigate the collapse concluded that a long period of drought, coupled with a heavy period of rain shortly before the incident, and a lack of anchoring roots, caused the tree to become top-heavy and fall over.

The mother of 6-year-old twin boys badly hurt by the falling tree subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Kidspace Children’s Museum, located nearby, and the city of Pasadena, alleging negligence and dangerous conditions.

Another family settled a lawsuit against the city earlier this year for $7.3 million in connection with another tree-related accident that injured a child. 

In that case, a 2-year-old girl was struck by a branch that fell from a tree at a city park adjacent to Linda Vista Children’s Center, where she was attending preschool on Aug. 29, 2017, authorities and an attorney representing the family said at the time. The child suffered a fractured vertebra and traumatic brain injury, among other injuries.

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