Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Pin Oak Tree, about 50 inches in diameter and estimated to be about 80 to 100 years old falls in the Bronx, damaging homes, a car, brought down powerlines and injuring a pedestrian

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 02:41PM
WOODLAWN HEIGHTS, Bronx (WABC) -- A massive tree believed to be a century old toppled in the Bronx Tuesday, tearing down power lines, destroying cars, damaging homes and leaving one pedestrian with undisclosed injuries.

The tree came down around 10 a.m. on East 238th Street in the Woodlawn Heights section. The enormous trunk and scattered branches completely blocks the street from one sidewalk clear across to the other side.

Officials from the New York City Parks Department said it was a Pin Oak Tree, about 50 inches in diameter and estimated to be about 80 to 100 years old. It is currently unknown what caused the tree to fall.

One woman was injured and taken to the hospital, but the extent of her injuries is unknown. According to a neighbor, the victim was gardening in her yard at the time.

Tom Letizia and his family were home when the tree came crashing down near their house.

"I just jumped, told her, 'get dressed, we're getting out of the house,'" Letizia said. "Ran to the front room, where my son sleeps, grabbed him. And the tree is in the window...I saw the lines, thought maybe there was going to be a fire."

Con Edison arrived to the scene shortly after the tree fell to de-energize the power lines on the street, and tree removal services were also present to work on the massive undertaking of removing the tree.


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Crews late Tuesday were working to remove a giant tree that toppled over the Bronx, injuring a woman after crushing a car, hitting a house and blocking the street.

As CBS2’s Reena Roy reported, the crash around 10 a.m. also knocked out power to the entire block.

“All I heard was, ‘Boom!’” one neighbor said. “It was like an earthquake.”

“It just sounded like the end of the world was coming,” said Tom Letizia, who had the tree crash into his home. “All you could was crushing, crushing, crushing.”

The huge oak tree went out with a bang, crashing down onto 238th Street near Martha Avenue in Woodlawn Heights. Its trunk and branches spanned from yard to yard.

“I thought somebody literally crashed into the house,” Letizia said.

The tree crashed into homes, a car, and a neighbor. Police said a mother of three was gardening across the street when it collapsed around her.

“She was just standing in the middle of the garden screaming at the top of her lungs, but she couldn’t move. So we ran into the garden and kind of just dragged her out,” said Maureen Donahue.

CBS2’s Valerie Castro talked with the woman’s husband, Rifat Licaj. He said he had been worried about the tree.

“They should have taken it down a long time ago,” he said.

The woman stood still in shock, trapped in the messy maze of power lines and branches. She was taken to Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center, authorities said.

“She has a bump in the back of the head and her tongue got cut, probably by the teeth, and her leg a little bit, but she’s fine,” Licaj said.

(credit: Reena Roy/CBS2)

Meanwhile, other neighbors were in for a rude awakening. The colossal tree forced its way into the Letizia family’s bedroom windows while they slept, shutting down power in their home and others on the block.

“I ran to the front of my apartment because my son sleeps there, and that’s when we saw the tree coming into the window,” Letizia said.

“I was kind of sleeping when it happened. But I heard a ton of cracking, like an earthquake, and then a huge slam,” said his son, Jason Letizia.

Crews were on the scene for hours restoring power. Workers continuously chopped the tree down to move it out of the way.

As jarring as it was, neighbors said it was only a matter of time until it happened.

One man took a photo last year, saying it looked unstable for a while. Many said they has asked the city to remove it, but it was never done.

“Every time I passed that tree, I had to park there,” said Daniel Henry. “I work nights and I parked under that tree, I asked, ‘God, please, don’t let it fall tonight.’ It was going to fall sooner or later.”

One man even took pictures of the tree to document what he thought was its instability.

The Department of Parks and Recreation said the tree was inspected twice last year in July and August — and was even pruned in August. The department said the tree showed no signs of poor health at the time.

Resident Kyle Tam said the city did indeed check the tree out.

“You would have thought they would have kind of done something about it, because it was leaning, but I guess, like I said, people thought it was, you know, healthy still,” Tam said.

After it was toppled over, the tree was chopped into large pieces and hauled away with a crane. The loss of the tree was sentimental for some, including Tam.

“It’s definitely sad, but what can you do, you know?” he said. “Maybe we’ll plant another tree one day.”

The Parks Department was investigating why the tree fell late Tuesday. Con Edison crews said they hoped to have power restored to everyone affected by the tree incident by Wednesday morning.