A tree came toppling onto traffic during Tuesday’s afternoon rush hour commute, raising safety concerns about the trees along Marine Way in south Vancouver.
The tree fell on top of a car, crushing and killing the driver. It also damaged a minivan, which was directly behind the car, and the two people inside were not hurt.
Michelle Mollineaux, who’s lived in the area for 25 years, said it did not come as a surprise that a tree fell onto the road in that location.
“We knew that this was an accident waiting to happen because of the poor maintenance of the trees. They’re too old and it’s very overgrown,” she said. “A life’s lost and that could have been prevented, there’s no excuse.”
She has seen other toppled trees in the area, not on roads, but over walkways.
“Falling right across pathways where people could have easily gotten killed,” she said.
An arborist confirmed the trees that fell on the pathway and the one that fell on the road are the same species: cottonwoods.
CTV News Vancouver asked Francis Klimo, certified arborist and tree risk assessor with Kilomo & Associates, to assess the tree involved in the crash.
“Looking at the tree itself, I’m not surprised that you’d see a tree that had failed,” Klimo said. “They’re very hazardous; they’re prone to stem failures, breakage.”
It’s unclear what prompted the tree to snap but Klimo believes the risk cottonwoods carry, and the recent adverse weather may have played a role.
“It’s up to the various municipalities, or property owners, to do a thorough assessment of their trees to fully understand that those are prone to failure like this, then take steps to ensure that trees don’t become a hazard to the public,” he said.
CTV News Vancouver asked the City of Vancouver when the last time the trees along Marine Way were inspected was did not receive a direct response to the question, and instead was told all 160,000 street trees are inspected annually.
A city spokesperson said they are deeply saddened by what happened Tuesday and an investigation is underway to understand what caused the tree to fail, adding no further details will be provided because it is an active investigation.
As they investigate, Mollineaux would also like to see some preventative measures in the area.
“It’s the fault of the city, they should be taking care of the trees…or that they build some kind of reinforcement, you know, to make sure that they don’t fall on the highway,” she said.
Vancouver police are asking anyone with dash cam video from the area of Marine Way and River District Crossing between 5 and 6 pm Tuesday to contact them.