Fallen tree branch fractures woman’s neck, spine in New York City park

A falling tree in Central Park injured a woman and three children Tuesday.

A Virginia woman suffered a fractured skull and spine in Washington Square Park when a tree branch broke off and struck her. 

According to ABC News, the 55-year-old woman was walking with her son in the park in Greenwich Village when a large branch fell on her just before 9 p.m. Monday. She was rushed to Bellevue Hospital in critical but stable condition. 

Authorities told the New York Daily News that the woman had suffered a fracture in her skull and her spine. Police are investigating the injury but believe it was an accident. The two were walking on the west side of the park when an estimated 35-foot-long branch of a London Plane tree snapped and fell on her at about 7:50 p.m. on Monday. 

The Parks Department inspected the tree on Tuesday, and a spokesperson told Metro New York, “this morning’s preliminary inspection indicates that the tree shows signs of having Massaria, a fungus, which may have caused the limb to fail. We will conduct further inspections of the tree, and surrounding trees, and will address accordingly.” 

According to data from London Planes tree experts, “Massaria is a fungus which infects plane tree branches. It normally infects branches which are less than 10 cm in diameter but has been found in branches up to 20cm. An infected branch may be still be in leaf and alive but can be substantially weakened by the disease, leading to possible breakage. The disease always attacks the upper side of the branch and is difficult to spot from the ground for this reason. In the early stages a long pink brown strip can be seen, followed by brown and then a black strip with spores.” 

The Parks Department said “Massaria is most often found in London Plane trees. Stress, usually due to lack of water availability, is tied to incidences of Massaria.” 

Injuries from fallen tree branches are an issue that affected scores of people in the Big Apple. 

When the bough breaks: A look back at NYC incidents

In 2018, two city EMTs were injured by a falling branch during a snowstorm.

According to the Parks Department data, 31 people were injured by falling trees or branches between 2011 and 2015. In 2017, a 3,000-pound, 75-foot elm tree fell in Central Park according to Gothamist. The branch fractured the skull of a two-year-old boy and his mother’s neck as well. 

In 2013, a pregnant Queens woman was killed when a 60-foot oak tree fell over and crushed her as she sat on a bench in Kissena Park.  

In February 2010, 46-year-old man was killed in Central Park by a fallen branch which snapped under the weight of heavy snow. 

In June 2010, a baby girl was killed and her mother critically injured when a tree branch fell and struck them just outside the Central Park Zoo. 

In July 2009, a rotted tree branch fell 40 feet, striking a 33-year-old Google engineer in the head in Central Park. The victim was left paralyzed, with serious brain damage and spinal cord injuries. The city paid $11.5 million to settle the case in 2012. 

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