Tree Falls on Skateboarder Near Fatal Site

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A fallen evergreen pear tree blocks the sidewalk and extends into the street near 16th Street and Sana Ana Avenue on Sunday. A skateboarded was momentarily pinned by the falling tree. He was shaken up, but escaped with only a few scrapes, witnesses and police said. Photo by Tandy Burgess

A large tree near the corner of 16th Street and Santa Ana Avenue in Newport Heights, along the border of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, fell early Sunday evening and a 15-year-old, who was skateboarding by on the sidewalk at the time, narrowly escaped serious injury.

The boy did sustain minor injuries on his back when the evergreen pear tree fell on top of him, and he was, according to eyewitness accounts, completely covered and pinned by the tree before he was able to extricate himself.

Costa Mesa police responded to the scene and spoke with the boy, who declined medical treatment, the CMPD said. The boy’s name was not released, and witnesses know only that his first name is Sean or Shawn.

Tandy Burgess of Costa Mesa said she saw it all happen.

“I was just driving down Santa Ana Avenue at 16th Street and witnessed a tree fall on a skateboarder. It was rotten and just fell out of nowhere. The boy crawled out with some bad scrapes and shook up.”
The tree is only a few blocks from Newport Heights Elementary School. Burgess, who has two children, told the Independent, “I wonder how many other trees are going to fall right there where kids walk to school.”
Burgess said she contacted the Independent because she had been reading our ongoing coverage of the tree fall that killed Haeyoon Miller at 17th Street and Irvine Avenue last September. That is only blocks from the scene of this latest incident

CMPD spokesman Lt Tim Schennum said police received a call at 4:41 p.m. and that an officer was on the scene shortly afterwards.

Burgess says the Costa Mesa officer assessed the boy’s injuries and determined he didn’t need emergency medical care, therefore an ambulance wasn’t called to the scene.  She also says that the officer spoke with homeowners in the townhome/condo complex on whose property the tree was planted, and then decided that no police report would be filed.

Burgess told the Independent that the officer did get in contact with the boy’s mother. The mother she said wasn’t able to make it to the scene immediately, due to car trouble.
Burgess said she also spoke directly to the boy’s mother and they agreed she would take the boy to his destination at the EZ Burger Restaurant on 17th Street in Costa Mesa.

Burgess also said the boy was very shaken up by the entire incident.

Before leaving Burgess took a few pictures of the scene. She later returned to take a few more.

Schennum confirmed that according to the police officer on the scene there was “no need for medics” and that no report had been filed.

He also said, “I have no indication how large the tree was; however, I suspect it wasn’t too big. The 15-year-old boy only sustained a minor scrape. You have all the other details.”

The Independent interviewed other people who witnessed the aftermath of the incident and they confirmed the same basic facts about the incident Burgess and Schennum.

One of those the Independent spoke to was Jean-Paul Rimlinger, a science teacher at Corona del Mar’s Harbor Day School. Rimlinger happens to live directly behind where the tree fell. The fallen tree was on the other side of Rimlinger’s backyard wall. Other similar trees line the street and the sidewalk and are also adjacent to other walls of condos at the location.

Rimlinger showed the Independent how the tree yanked down a stand of backyard lights he had fastened to it. Rimlinger, said he didn’t witness the incident himself but did speak to other residents who did.

According to Rimlinger and other residents in the area, the tree was later removed and cut up by city workers who had been sent to clear the sidewalk and street.

Burgess and Rinlinger both told the paper they were familiar with the recent death of Miller, and were shocked that such an incident had happened again and that they had been so directly involved.

The Independent contacted Daniel Dominquez. Costa Mesa’s interim City Arborist, who told the paper he wasn’t aware of the incident, but now that it had been brought to his attention he would initiate looking into it.

He also said that tree incidents in that immediate area of 16th Street and Santa Ana Avenue had been previously reported.

Late Thursday, based on information provided by the Independent, Dominquez inspected additional trees at the site in person and found two other evergreen pear trees to be in need of removal.

“I’ll be recommending removal,” he said based on tree rot and other issues. One of the other trees at the site is nearly dead. Whether the trees are Costa Mesa city trees or that of the property owner, Dominquez said, still has to be determined.

The remains of the tree that already fell have been fully cleaned up now and nothing remains but a rotted out stump.


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