City Removes Memorial to Woman Killed by Tree

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The city of Newport Beach has decided not to maintain or continue to allow a memorial at the site where a motorist was killed by a falling tree last September.

Haeyoon Miller, 29, of Tustin was killed when a large blue gum eucalyptus tree in the roadway’s median fell and crushed her to death while she was waiting to turn left at 17th Street  and Irvine Avenue. The site is  on the border of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. Newport Beach maintains the roadway median in an agreement with the city of Costa Mesa.

A makeshift memorial to Miller was put in place by local residents and others expressing their condolences and grief almost immediately after the accident. It has been maintained at the site ever since.

The city of Newport Beach has allowed the Miller memorial, until now.

Late last week the memorial that has stood at the sight since Miller’s death was removed.

A worker on scene at the time explained that he and his fellow landscape crew had no idea about Miller or the significance of the flowers and other items that were at the scene.

One worker, who spoke to the Newport Indy on condition that his name not be used, said hat when the flowers were removed, someone, unknown to the men working on the site, came running over from a nearby coffeehouse on the corner to tell them that they shouldn’t be removing the memorial and should definitely not be discarding it.

When asked about how the memorial was dealt with and whether or not the landscaping contractor doing the on-site work was made aware of the memorial and how to handle it, and what would become of it, city spokeswoman Finnegan replied via email:

“I checked with the project manager from our Public Works Department, and there weren’t special provisions included in the project spec’s for the memorial. However, the contractor (KASA) was told that a City crew would remove the components of the memorial and staff members with our Municipal Operations Dept. did so late last week. (Our staff wanted to do that work themselves.) The items were taken to the City’s Corp Yard and Ms. Miller’s family will be contacted and asked if they would like to have the items.”

Asked if the city had any plans to maintain or reinstall a memorial of any kind, Finnegan wrote: “The City does not have plans to place a different memorial at the site and the primary concern is safety (due to the location being the center median of a fairly busy street).”

In recent weeks the city has begun a large project to re-landscape the Irvine Avenue center median.  The project, which runs from 17th Street down to Dover Drive, has seen a large pick-up in work on the project in the past two weeks.  Traffic on Irvine Avenue has been cut to one lane recently while the project progresses.

The city rejected claims of responsibility by Miller’s mother and father earlier this year. Both have filed lawsuits that are now working there way through the Orange County Superior Court. The cases are being heard by Judge Andrew Banks, and hearings are slated for later this year.

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