BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, Brooklyn (PIX11) — In two separate incidents, within three days of each other, two people died in New York City from fallen trees or tree branches. It’s left some people concerned that not enough is being done to keep them safe from the potential harm that a fallen tree can inflict.
The first of the two fatal incidents happened around 8 a.m. Saturday. That’s when a 28-inch thick London plane tree lost a branch in the P.O. Reinaldo Salgado Playground in Brooklyn.
The branch fell from a height about three-and-a-half stories above the ground and onto a 35-year-old man who was sitting on a park bench below.
Hallman Bates lives across the street from the playground, which also has a large seating area for adults.
“Shocked,” he said, about learning what had happened. “I was shocked.”
Bates is a regular at the park, and said that on a few occasions in the past, he’d seen the man who ended up losing his life.
“Trees fall, but never fallen on nobody that I know of,” Bates said. “When that happened, it really scared me.”
Roman Valencia, another nearby resident, said that he saw police and Parks Department rangers working the scene over the weekend. The randomness of the tragedy unnerved him.
“I always sit down in here every day,” he said, pointing to the park bench where the man lost his life. “So I thank God. I feel sorry for that person, but [it] could be me, too.”
The man died at Kings County Hospital on Saturday night.
A day-and-a-half later, on Monday afternoon, a woman who police identified as Donna Douglas, 59, died when a large tree that was planted next to the swimming pool at her high-rise complex in the Bronx toppled over into the pool. She was swimming laps in the pool at the time.
An eyewitness, who gave only his first name, Matt, described what he’d seen in the starkest of terms.
“Freaky,” he said. “Freaky.”
Reactions like that to the recent deaths — as well as the critical injury of a 72-year-old woman who had also been swimming when the tree fell — have led to calls for closer scrutiny of trees.
“To determine whether they should be pruned, trimmed, treated,” said Matt, the eyewitness to Monday’s fatal tree fall.
It was on private property, which means that the building at which the tragedy happened is responsible for the tree and for what happened.
Most of the 5.2 million trees in the city, however, are on public land, in parks, and planted in tree pits between streets and sidewalks.
The NYC Parks Department is responsible for those trees. The department said in a comment on Tuesday afternoon:
“We take the safety of New Yorkers seriously, and our trained expert foresters work diligently year-round to care for trees in our parks and along the city’s streets. We utilize state-of-the-art methodology and a robust risk inspection protocol to determine tree health.”
The city has what it calls a tree service request system. By visiting its website, anyone can alert the city about damaged, dead or otherwise dangerous trees or branches. A call to 311 will also connect any caller to the tree service request system.