‘Sur­real’ mo­ment for off-duty of­fi­cer

Central Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - STAFF RE­PORTER

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.

CHRIS MCKEEN

One per­son was in­jured af­ter a large tree col­lapsed in Corn­wall Park.

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