‘Surreal’ moment for off-duty officer
An ear-splitting crack sent offduty police officer Adrian Heffernan sprinting away from his family into a ’’surreal’’ scene.
A 130-year-old cottonwood tree toppled over on Sunday afternoon, crushing four vehicles in Auckland’s Cornwall Park just metres from where he and his family were eating ice creams.
When he realised there were people trapped in one of the crushed vehicles, Heffernan flew into action.
‘‘It was surreal,’’ he said. ‘‘There was a branch that had trapped [an elderly lady] and her son-in-law in the car.
‘‘It took about eight or nine guys to pick the branch up to try and move it out of the way.’’
Once they finally got to her, she was ‘‘slumped over the front seat’’.
‘‘So we finally got her door open and I slowly got her out of the car, and picked her up to the grass verge and laid her down.’’
Heffernan said the woman was in shock. He waited beside her and her family until the ambulance arrived.
‘‘It was probably the loudest sound I’d ever heard. It was a massive cracking sound, followed by the thud of the tree hitting the ground.
‘‘My concern was that the other tree, that was right next to it, was going to fall down also.’’ The cottonwood fell down right next to a large norfolk pine ’’ripping half its branches off on the way down’’. Emergency services then arrived at the scene, near the park’s information centre, just after 2.15pm on Sunday.
A Fire Service spokesman said the woman received moderate injuries and was taken to hospital.
Heffernan said he wants to get in touch with the woman or her family to make sure she is okay.
It’s the second time in a year that a large tree has crushed cars and caused damage in the popular weekend picnic spot.
In February, a large eucalyptus crushed several cars also.
The trees are regularly assessed for structural integrity, with trees routinely recommended for removal.
In a statement, park director Michael Ayrton said both man- agement and the Cornwall Park Trust Board were ‘‘very concerned’’ by the incident.
The park has commissioned an immediate arborist report on what happened with this tree, he said.
All findings in the report will be released publicly.
One person was injured after a large tree collapsed in Cornwall Park.