Tragic mother 'froze for second' then ran as tree crashed down
Published 10/08/2011 | 05:00
A MOTHER of three "froze for a second" then ran as a tree toppled on top of her in high winds, an inquest heard.
Lynda Collins (45) died of injuries sustained when the chestnut tree fell on top of her on a city street. A school desk and car jack were used in frantic attempts to lift the large tree off Ms Collins, an inquest into her death was told.
Dublin City Coroner's Court heard that the tree had an internal defect which made it more vulnerable to collapse, but there were no obvious signs of a problem.
Ms Collins of Woodbine Avenue, Booterstown, Co Dublin, had left work at the ESB and was walking along Waterloo Road when she was struck near the junction with Upper Baggot Street just after 5pm on February 3.
Witness Anthony McDonnell told the inquest that the wind was very strong when he heard "a cracking noise".
"I heard the snapping and I saw the tree falling down. The lady across the road was walking in the opposite direction to me. When she heard the tree snap she looked up and it looked like she froze for a second. Then she ran, but in the path of the tree," he said.
The court heard that a large number of passers-by attempted to help, including an off-duty paramedic and a hospital doctor on his way home from work.
Robert Halligan told the inquest how about 15 people attempted to lift the tree, which was lying across almost the whole width of the road.
Motorist Patrick Kennedy used a two-tonne garage jack from his car to lift the tree until members of Dublin Fire Brigade arrived and got Ms Collins out using two airbags.
Motorist Daniel Fitzpatrick described hearing a "huge bang" before a tree came down on the bonnet of his car.
An off-duty member of the fire brigade, Amanda Guilfoyle, was on her way to work when she came upon the scene. She said there were no signs of life.
Ms Collins was taken to St Vincent's Hospital where she was pronounced dead, but the coroner said it appeared she died at the scene. Her death was due to multiple chest injuries.
The mature horse chestnut tree, which was in the grounds of the International School of Dublin on Pembroke Road, Dublin 4, had no obvious defect and was not decayed or soft, but it had an internal crack which made it more vulnerable.
Joseph McConville, a tree consultant who carried out an inspection at the request of the gardai, said he did not believe that an examination would have identified the significance of the defect prior to failure and that the weather was a very significant contributory cause.
The tree, one of a group of three, was subsequently cut to the ground, as were the two other trees.
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said the risk factors for the incident were the high winds on the evening and the internal defect.
"This was a tragic accident," he said.
The coroner praised all the members of the public who tried to assist.