Officials have launched an investigation after a woman was killed Saturday and a 4-year-old girl and four other guests were injured when a giant Eucalyptus tree suddenly toppled on wedding guests in a Southern California park.
Some members of the wedding party were snapping photos of the 100-foot tree in Penn Park in Whittier, about 20 miles east of Los Angeles, when it crashed on top of them.
More than 100 police officers and firefighters responded to the tragedy Saturday afternoon, and attempted to revive the woman struck by the tree. Several people were trapped beneath the limbs of the tree until rescue workers cut them free with chainsaws.
“The officers responding initially went to work right away, did the best they could to start getting larger limbs and people out from under the tree, and then our partners at Los Angeles County Fire arrived and we were able to start getting victims out and getting victims triaged,” a police official said at a press conference.
The victim has not been identified, nor has the girl, who was critically injured with head trauma when the tree toppled, according to Whittier police. The other injuries were minor. A witness said the dead woman may have been related to the bride. The bride was “screaming about her mom ― they couldn’t wake her up,” Rene Zaldivar, who was at the park for another celebration, told NBC 4.
Penn Park will remain closed indefinitely as an arborist examines the site as well as other trees in the area. Officials said there was no indication earlier that the tree was at risk of falling. There was early speculation that the California drought had weakened the roots that then tore from the earth because the ground was softened by recent heavy rain, reported ABC 7.
The park is popular for weddings in part because of the picturesque trees.
“We’re trying to make sure that we give all the dignity and respect of that family,” Los Angeles County Fire Department Deputy Chief John Tripp said at the news conference. “They were here for a joyous occasion and then unfortunately, a very large tree interrupted that, and they, right now, are going through a lot of issues that we’re trying to make sure to support.”
Tripp said had there been more people directly under the tree, most of the injuries would not have been minor. “Fortunately, there weren’t more people that were injured by the collapse,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse.”