The owner of a giant willow tree that fell on his guests at a garden party, crushing one and injuring four others, had no idea that the tree was completely rotten on the inside.
“I hadn’t a clue,” said Paul Gambell, 75, of the tree that appeared to be about 100 years old. “The top branches were showing signs of it being dead and breaking off but there was a lot of life in the old thing.”
The tree fell Saturday night during a party in Gambell’s sprawling backyard on Ledge Road, near the intersection of McCowan and Kingston Roads. One woman, identified by Gambell as Bev Kane, 65, died instantly, while Gambell’s girlfriend, Rita Purdie, 78, remains in critical condition in Sunnybrook hospital. Three others were taken to the hospital with minor injuries and later released.
Gerald Skuce, one of the guests at the night out for members of the Scarborough Social Club, said that he heard the tree crack.
He looked at the tree, but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. About 15 minutes later, he says, he heard another crack. “I don’t know if it was after the third or the fourth crack that I just yelled to everybody, run!” he said.