Fall­ing tree de­liv­ers crush­ing blow

Central Leader - - News - By Janie Smith

As Morgan Con­nick watched a fall­ing 10-tonne tree crush his car, he was just thank­ful he wasn’t in it.

Mr Con­nick was parked out­side a block of pen­sioner flats in One­hunga, where he was visit­ing his mother, when a large ery­th­rina or flame tree on the neigh­bour­ing prop­erty fell on the carpark with­out warn­ing.

He was walk­ing back to his Subaru Legacy about 10.30am when he saw the tree be­gin to fall.

“It was like slow mo­tion. When it landed on the car it sounded like a tin can be­ing crushed in your hand. There was no wind or any­thing.”

One of the care­tak­ers visit­ing the flats was parked sev­eral spa­ces away from Mr Con­nick and walked out ahead of him.

“She got in her car as it fell and she started scream­ing. I ran to get a phone to call for help but she was okay.”

His sis­ter, He­lene Colins, parked her car two spa­ces away and it was scratched by the fallen branches, which trapped it in place.

“If it had fallen a dif­fer­ent way, it would have landed on the pen­sioner flats. It was for­tu­nate it hit the car,” says Mr Con­nick.

The tree com­pletely crushed the car, writ­ing it off.

It could have killed him if was sit­ting in it.

“I’m glad it took me a while to put my shoes on.”

Ms Colins says peo­ple are al­ways com­ing and go­ing in the carpark and it was lucky no one was walk­ing un­der­neath the tree when it fell.

The pair called in con­sul­tant ar­borist Chris Ben­ton to de­ter­mine why the tree fell.

“It had come to the end of its life span.

“That tree was 60 years old and struc­turally flawed,” Mr Ben­ton says.

He says one of the tree’s two stems fell a year ago and the re­main­ing part was not main­tained.

The fun­gal in­fec­tion that ate the dead roots of the fallen part also at­tacked the roots of the stand­ing tree, dam­ag­ing its struc­ture.

When the first stem fell, the other stem should have been prop­erly main­tained to make sure it was safe, he says.

The part that crushed Mr Con­nick’s car was 12 me­tres high and weighed around 10 tonnes.

“It’s not about trees fall- ing over, it’s about a lack of sen­si­ble main­te­nance. Some alarm bells should have rung. It could have killed some­one eas­ily.

“A big tree that is healthy and sound is not go­ing to fall over.”

The prop­erty where the tree was grow­ing is owned by On­track, who leases it out.

A spokes­woman says some­one was sent down to in­spect the site on the day of the in­ci­dent.

“As yet we have not been ap­proached by the owner of the ve­hi­cle, but we will work through the mat­ter with them when we do.”

On­track con­tacted Hous­ing New Zealand, which leases the pen­sioner flats.

Morgan Con­nick


Crush­ing blow: A 10-tonne tree fell on Morgan Con­nick’s car, writ­ing it off.

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