Leakin Park tree crushes passing car Firefighters pull man, 44, from wreck

cause of fall unknown

August 20, 1998|By Paula Lavigne | Paula Lavigne,SUN STAFF

A Yellow Van driver was critically injured yesterday when a towering red oak tree on the edge of Leakin Park fell and crushed the roof of his sedan as he was traveling west on Windsor Mill Road.

Clarence Henry "Hank" Cammeron, 44, a Yellow Van driver for about two years, was trapped in his Ford LTD Crown Victoria while firefighters used a collapse unit to support the roof and tree limbs -- about a foot in diameter -- that totaled the car in which Cammeron was the only occupant.

Cammeron was in critical but stable condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center last night.City Fire Capt. Joe Brocato said Cammeron told medics at the scene that he had no feeling below his shoulders.

Brocato said the passenger-side doors and windows and the back seat had to be cut away to remove Cammeron. The front seat reclined, he said, and firefighters were able to slide Cammeron out. Brocato said if people had been riding in the passenger side -- which took the brunt of the crash -- they likely would have been crushed.

Wilbert L. Starks, a sales representative from Columbia, said the tree missed him by a few seconds. Starks was traveling east on Windsor Mill Road in his Chevrolet Lumina when he saw "limbs and [electrical] lines falling" in front of him.

He sped up to avoid the falling branches, but at least one broke his antenna and scraped his roof, leaving scratches all the way to the trunk.

He said he watched the tree hit Cammeron's vehicle in his rearview mirror.

"I've been praying, thanking God, that nothing happened [to me]," he said. "I was going about my normal activities, and this all started falling around me."

Mark L. Joseph, president of Yellow Transportation, said Cammeron, who lives in the Windsor Hills area, was on his way to pick up a passenger when the accident happened.

Supervisor Janice Butler said Cammeron is cooperative and has "a very pleasant smile." He often works with disabled passengers, she said, and has a perfect driving record.

The tree fell in two parts: the trunk, which was about 4 feet wide, then a large section of branches, which hit Cammeron's car. The tree crossed both lanes, ripping down electrical lines that carried 33,000 volts. City workers used chain saws to clear the trunk, branches and limbs.

Dave Tischner, tree inspector with the city's forestry section, said the red oak was healthy and green and he could not explain its fall -- other than to suggest that wind, time, weight and nature might have been factors. Tischner said the tree belonged to the city's Leakin Park.

"This is one of the oldest woods in the city," he said. "There's nothing to prevent it.

"It's an act of nature."

Pub Date: 8/20/98

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