SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The woman paralyzed after being struck by a falling tree branch while sitting in a San Francisco park has filed a legal claim against the city.
Her husband and children filed claims as well. The city’s rec and park department has called this a freak accident.
KRON4 talked to the victim’s husband and attorney who said the reason the mother of two may never walk is because city workers used illegal tree-trimming methods to prune those trees.
Thirty-six-year-old Emma Zhou suffered brain damage, a severed spinal cord, and permanent paralysis from the waist down, according to her husband.
“The doctors say she’s not going to walk again, and that’s a nightmare for me,” husband Tony Tan said.
In August, the mother of two was hit by a 100-pound tree branch, which snapped off, falling an estimated 50 feet, at Washington Square Park in North Beach.
She had been talking with her two young children when she was hit.
Her husband said his 5 and 9-year-old girls have been traumatized by the incident, especially his youngest.
“She (is) crying all night long, I believe she (has) nightmares,” Tan said.
Claims for unspecified damages over $25,000 dollars have been filed against the city for each family member. This move is considered a precursor to a lawsuit.
The rec and park department said the tree was inspected after the accident and has been determined to be healthy. A city arborist later checked out all of the trees in that park.
City officials consider this a freak accident.
The family’s attorney is alleging that the city improperly pruned the pine trees using an illegal practice called tree topping.
“Normally, the tree grows up and down, but here, we have at the topping cut these large, trunk-like branches growing off the sides, and this one here is where the branch fell off and hit Emma,” the victim’s attorney Jeremy Cloyd said.
He said he is concerned that other trees near the playground show the same growth pattern, and the city needs to address it.
“So that it doesn’t happen to another family,” Cloyd said.
KRON4 reached out to the mayor and the rec and parks department. They referred KRON4 to the city attorney.
A spokesperson for the office said they are saddened by the tragedy but can’t say much else until they review the claims.
Here is the claim: