Woman killed by falling tree is ID'D
44-year-old on a Boy Scouts hike with child in hills above Cupertino
The woman killed while hiking with her child during a Boy Scouts event near Cupertino on Sunday has been identified as a 44-year-old woman from San Jose.
Vidyut Nautiyal died after a tree fell on her as she was hiking in Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, according to the Santa Clara County coroner's office. Nautiyal was hiking on the Stephen E. Abbors Trail, which runs along the south edge of the park in the hills above Cupertino, when the tree fell on her Sunday morning.
Santa Clara County firefighters were called to the park at about 10 a.m. for a woman pinned beneath a tree about 3.5 miles from the open space's parking lot. Bystanders tried in vain to free her, but they couldn't until after firefighters arrived. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
A day later, a freshly chopped tree laid on the side of the path about 3.5 miles from the open space's parking lot, surrounded by mounds of fresh sawdust. The muddy trail leading to it was littered with dozens of other trees along each side — many of which appeared to have fallen in recent weeks.
It appears Nautiyal had been hiking with her child as part of a Boy Scouts of America event when the tree fell on her, an executive with the group confirmed.
The group also declined to comment further Monday.
“We will continue to cooperate with investigating authorities,” said Eric Tarbox, chief executive of the Boy Scouts' Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, in a statement Sunday night. “All Scouts are safe and there were no additional injuries.”
Nautiyal's family declined to comment Monday.
Her death marked the first casualty at a Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District park from a falling tree or tree limb in the agency's 60-year existence, said Leigh Ann Gessner, an agency spokeswoman.
It came amid a rash of fallen trees across the Bay Area in recent months. Rain gauges have measured anywhere from 10 to 23 inches of rain in the San Jose area since October, leaving soils across the region dangerously saturated. With little purchase in the muddy ground, trees have been
unstable and susceptible to falling during gusty conditions, often on power lines or even houses.
More than 600 downed or hazardous trees have been removed by rangers or maintenance crews at Midpeninsula parks from late December through late February, according to Gessner. Crews also cleared more than 100 clogged culverts and drains and cleared dozens of landslides from trails in that time.
“It's been a challenging winter in a lot of ways,” Gessner said. “We're just very saddened. Our hearts go out to the victim and her family.”
While other parks in the open space district — particularly those along Skyline Boulevard in the Santa Cruz Mountains — suffered far more damage from the storms in recent months, Rancho San Antonio and other open spaces along the foothills appeared to have fared better, said Matt Anderson, chief ranger for the Midpeninsula Regional Open
Space District. No closures were in effect at the park on Sunday.
A shower had passed over Cupertino about a half-hour after the woman was pinned beneath the tree. While no weather stations were located at the park, similar storms on Sunday produced gusts of about 20 to 25 mph — far less than other storms to hit the Bay Area this winter, according to the National Weather Service.
“There was nothing else going on that day that was a safety issue that was unusual, so to speak,” Anderson said.
Nautiyal's death marks the latest tragedy stemming from one of the Bay Area's most rain-soaked winters in recent years. While a parade of storms and atmospheric rivers in recent months helped kick the region out of one of its worst droughts on record, the stormy weather came at the cost of at least 21 lives across the state, including from trees falling onto people or into houses.