Investigation continues into deadly tree accident at Whittier park

The City of Whittier is promising an investigation into what caused a huge tree in a city park to fall on top of a wedding party leading to an enormous tragedy.

One woman was killed and five others were hurt, including a 4-year-old girl who was in critical condition at last check.

Church officials said it was 2:30 p.m. Saturday when a marriage filled St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church with joy. After about two hours, tthat joy turned to tragedy.

The bride, groom and family went to nearby Penn Park to take wedding pictures. A huge eucalyptus tree collapsed on them so fast the tree had to be cut into pieces to get the victims out from under it.

They couldn't escape.

Just the thought stunned those who came by the park to look...

Monica Fernandez said: "We just returned from mass and prayed for the family."
Sandy Sherman: "It's very sad. It's very sad this had to happen."
Mary Keeney: "That had to be frightening to see this huge tree just falling to the ground."
Thomas Keeney: "And, eucalyptus being a hardwood, that would just crush you"

About 11 years ago, Thomas Keeney, his wife Mary, and their family had pictures taken in the park in almost the exactly same spot. It's a popular place for pictures.

Keeney is an ecologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. His background is in botany. They city has said it hired an outside arborist to help its own team of tree experts to investigate what happened.

He's glad to hear that, but suspicious of what may have caused the tree to fall.

To those who might suggest the drought or recent storm were the culprits, he says, "It's possible, yes, it's possible. But the tree's a very old tree. You see how big it is. It's probably at least 50 to 100 years old. It's possible, but it's suspect."

Jeffrey Collier is Whittier's City Manager.

"It's very rare to have something like this occur," he said. "At this point we've started an investigation. I know they'll come in here and they look at both soil conditions. They'll look at the tree. Determine if there was any kind of rot, disease, in the tree. It doesn't appear to be, but again they'll look at the tree and determine potentially a cause for the tree going over."

Back at the church, when you ask about what caused the tree collapse you hear things like this from church official Filomena Rombeiro:

"We never know when is the time and the hour. And definitely there was a wrong time and the wrong place, but with God there is no wrong time or wrong place. There is always a time and a season for everything."

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