South Bay News

Tree falls on 49ers staff gathered in San Jose

Monday, June 03, 2013

An investigation is under way into why a century-old oak tree split and crashed down on a group of San Francisco 49ers coaches and their wives gathered a San Jose park on Saturday. One person suffered a broken leg, while others escaped with cuts and scratches.

It was one big tree. Crews have been cutting up the 20-ton monster since Saturday. That's when a social gathering for the 49er coaching staff turned into a near brush with death. They had rented the field where members of the San Jose Lawn Bowling Club were giving them lessons, when those on the far side heard an ominous sound.

"I heard a little bit of a crackling sound, and then you visually saw the tree coming down," recalled San Jose Lawn Bowling Club board member Mary Scott. They began to yell across the course for people to run.

"The people on this side probably didn't understand why we were telling them to run. I know my husband turned around and saw it coming. That's when he took off," said Shari Donatell, the wife of 49ers Secondary Coach Ed Donatell.

Ed escaped safely, however Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman was trapped for a short time under a limb, but managed to free himself. "So many people ran in and just started helping immediately. And a couple nurses were in the area, they ran in and tried to help," Shari said.

One of the lawn bowling instructors, Heather Seacrist, wasn't as lucky. She got pinned under a limb and suffered a broken leg. An arborist said that limb probably weighed 2,000 pounds.

"It was like watching a person who is riding a wave in the ocean, and all of a sudden they disappear under the wave. That's what I saw happen to her. She was running and that tree just enveloped her, and she was down," Scott said.

At least three cars were also smashed.

Certified arborist Richard Smith says that why the 20-ton tree toppled is still unknown. Underground decay is a possibility. "The underground root system can be decaying, and the tree looks totally healthy, and there's really no visible signs of ailment in the tree, and it can just fall over," he explained.

The park is filled with old oaks and redwoods. "It is a concern now and it's kind of scary because what if a person was walking the dog or if someone with a stroller... What if someone was breastfeeding in the car, and crash... It's scary," San Jose resident Tirrell Holmes told ABC7 News.

San Jose has been doing a census of all its trees and checking up on their condition, but it's not known if this tree had been part of any recent survey.

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san jose, santa clara county, san francisco 49ers, south bay news, david louie
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