Commonwealth Journal

June 13, 2013

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Damage done to four vehicle by unexpectedly downed tree branch downtown

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

If a tree falls in the city and everyone is around to hear it, it doesn’t just make a sound — it makes headlines.
That’s what happened Monday evening on North Main Street in downtown Somerset, when an apparently rotting tree branch broke off and fell flat across the road — damaging several vehicles as a result.
The large maple tree in the vacant lot beside the Carnegie Community Arts Center — where the longstanding house formerly belonging to the Richardson family stood before being torn down a number of years ago — saw one of its mighty limbs fall at around 6 p.m.
It happened without warning, and without an obvious cause. Weather conditions were clear and sunny, so lightning and wind were no culprits. No one had a ready answer at the time.
However, Lisa Compton, executive vice-president at Citizens National Bank — which currently owns the property on which the tree stands — said that tree professionals were employed to take a look at the situation Tuesday night and determined that the aging tree was rotting on the inside.
“They said you couldn’t tell it from the outside,” said Compton. “You had to drill in a little bit, but when they did, you could tell that it was rotting.”
No one was quite sure how long the tree had been there, but at the very least, it had stood in that spot for decades.
“It was just a freak accident,” said Compton.
She said the tree experts will need to take another look at it, but said that it’s likely they will recommend to have the entire tree cut down for safety’s sake, and expects that Citizens National Bank will ultimately have it felled.
In all, four cars were harmed by the branch, which was about two feet in diameter and 30 to 40 feet long — enough to stretch from sidewalk to sidewalk across two lanes of traffic. 
Three of the cars were parked. One, however, was in motion at the time, headed southbound on North Main Street.
The 2002 Ford F-150 was driven by Derrick Jackson, 20, with Maris Oshaughnessy, 18, as a passenger. Oshaughnessy was taken to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in the accident. 
Det. Chris Gates of the Somerset Police Department said the victim had some “minor injuries to her head” but nothing life-threatening, and had already been released from the hospital on Wednesday.
“As they were approaching, the limb falls and hits the front (of the truck),” said Gates. “(Jackson) stopped right at the tree. 
“It could have been a lot worse,” he added. 
Gates pointed out that the limbs had been cabled together, presumably to help the branches grow in certain directions. One of the cables appeared to be dangling loose after the incident Tuesday.
Several local youth riding bicycles nearby witnessed the accident. Nathan Sears was one of that group. He said that he heard “a big pop” and a girl’s scream before they turned to see the branch on top of the truck.
“We were seconds from riding under it,” said John Wilson, another of the young bikers.
No one else was injured, and the other cars were empty at the time the branch fell.
The road was blocked for approximately two hours as state highway department chopped up and cleared the tree at the scene.