Woman dies after freakish winds topple tree

The scene in Victoria Square in Cambridge where a pin oak fell, trapping a woman who later died in hospital. Photo: Mary Anne Gill

A woman who sheltered from the bad weather under a pin oak tree in Cambridge’s Victoria Square has died in Waikato Hospital after the tree fell and trapped her under it.

The woman was treated at the scene by St John Ambulance and taken to hospital in a critical condition where she later died.

A Fire and Emergency NZ spokesperson said they had been called to the tree fall about 10am on Friday May 20. The woman was freed at 10.48am.

The pin tree oak roots. Photo: Mary Anne Gill

The tree was a pin oak (Quercus palustris) which contractors TreeScape later cleared from the scene along with the tree alongside it.

The pin oak tree was around 80-years old and  was healthy.  It was pruned at the beginning of April.

Council arborists have now inspected the tree and have confirmed all roots were healthy. There have been no previous concerns about the tree which was removed today. Clean up will continue next week.

Group manager customer and community services Sally Sheedy said the tree appears to have been blown over in “freakishly” high winds.

“It has been described to me as a mini-tornado which look to have lifted a perfectly healthy tree out of the ground.  Our concern and thoughts now are with the person who was trapped and we sincerely thank those who acted so quickly to help.”

A large branch also fell on top of the toilets in Victoria Square while a significant branch from one tree (a Linden Lime tree) fell in Hall St, Cambridge.  Contractors felled the tree and will remove it next week. Three cars have been damaged but there are no reports of any injuries.  The tree is around 100 years old and was considered in good health.

Council contractors are already on site waiting for lines company Waipa Networks to isolate power before cleaning up.

“Those with queries about power supply should contact Waipa Networks directly.  In the meantime, we are asking people to avoid the Hall St and Victoria Square areas so we can help deal with the damage,” Sheedy said.

“In the meantime council staff are now out checking on all other trees and parks in the area. We are urging people to be cautious and safe and to report any concerns to us immediately.”

In a statement, Waipā mayor Jim Mylchreest said he was shocked to hear of the incident unfolding.

“This is such a freakish incident and my heart goes out to family and friends.  It’s really very hard to comprehend,” Mylchreest said.

“I do however want to thank those who saw both incidents unfold and who responded so quickly and professionally.  Cambridge is a tight community and has shown that again today.”

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