Eucalyptus Tree Topples Killing 29 Year-Old Female Driver

Image via LA Times

Officials are trying to determine why a eucalyptus tree planted in an Irvine Avenue median toppled last Thursday, landing on a car and killing the female driver.

A young woman was killed Thursday afternoon when a 50- to 70-foot eucalyptus tree planted in an Orange County street median fell on her car as she waited at a red light.

Bystanders swarmed the scene after the tree came to rest in the three southbound lanes of Irvine Avenue north of 17th Street in Costa Mesa. Haeyoon Miller, 29, of Tustin was stopped on the roadway when the tree hit her blue 2002 Hyundai Accent GS.

Miller was initially conscious and talking, said witness McKenzie Soylula, 16.

Costa Mesa Fire Capt. Fred Seguin said his unit was there in less than five minutes, and Newport Beach fire personnel were already at the scene, which is on the border of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. Seguin said the woman was unresponsive when he arrived. “Woman is killed when tree topples on car” LA Times, September 16, 2011.

Booth & Koskoff handled a very similar case several years ago involving a tree that fell on to the highway near Balboa Park in San Diego.  In order to obtain a successful result for our clients in that case, we hired a team of experts on trees and soil to examine the tree that fell, the soil that it was planted in and photographs that had been taken of the tree over the years.  As a result of that work, we were able to show that the tree had been leaning more and more towards the road as the years went on, but the State of California, which was responsible for maintaining the tree, had done nothing to deal with that danger.

It is obviously unknown at this point whether a similar phenomenon was at work in connection with the Costa Mesa accident.  Only a very careful, thorough investigation would reveal the exact cause. The weather does not seem to have been a factor in causing the tree to fall.

Our condolences to the family of Haeyoon Miller.

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