WHITTIER, California — One person was killed and five injured when a giant eucalyptus tree toppled onto a wedding party in a California park.
The 100-foot-tall tree, which officials said was “very old” and “very large” landed onto the crowd of wedding participants as they took photos in Penn Park in Whittier, trapping up to 20 people.
“I heard the crackling and I’m looking up and it was just an odd sound,” witness Mary Escarga told KNBC-TV.
Fire crews and police rushed to the scene with chainsaws to cut those trapped beneath the tree. One woman was killed was and five others hospitalized, including a 4-year-old girl who suffered a head injury.
“They were here for a joyous occasion and then unfortunately a very large tree interrupted that,” said John Tripp, deputy chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “This was a pretty traumatic event.”
Penn Incident in Whittier
Posted by Los Angeles County Fire Department on Saturday, December 17, 2016
“It was supposed to be one of the most exciting days of their lives, and instead, it turned into what it turned into,” Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri said, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Given the size of the tree, which was described as having multiple trunks, Tripp said it was fortunate that more people were not seriously hurt. “It could have been much worse,” he said.
Officials said it was not immediately clear why the tree gave way when it did, but that trees in southern California had been under great stress in recent years due to an extended drought. Heavy rains in recent days could have played some role, Tripp said.
In July 2015, eight children were injured, two of them critically, when an 85-foot-tall pine tree toppled over in Pasadena, following a bout of heavy rain amid years of drought.