SEATTLE – Eric Medalle was a father of two little girls, taking one of them out for a Sunday drive. But around 1:30 Sunday afternoon, as the two were either driving down or sitting parked on Seward Park Road near the Lost Lake Trail, a massive Douglas fir came crashing down on their SUV.
On Monday the King County Medical Examiner's office identified Medalle, 42, as the man who died in Sunday windstorm. A 36-year-old woman, who wants to remain anonymous, pulled the toddler from the BMW X3's back seat. The girl went to Harborview Medical Center with only minor injuries.
Seward Park remained closed for most of Monday as Seattle Parks and Recreation crews cleaned up downed trees across the park. It reopened around 3:00 in the afternoon.
"Due to the high wind and the heavy winds we've received over, pretty much, the whole winter it was … an unforeseen incident that happened," said Matt Stemple, a tree trimmer and arborist for Seattle Parks and Recreation.
Stemple said city crews look for any signs of decay, broken branches, cracked limbs, abnormal growth and heavy leaning among the thousands of trees in Seattle's park system.
"Every time we do receive a request when somebody is concerned about a tree, we do look into that," Stemple said. "It's a balance that we have to try and make: keeping trees and keeping the environment and a green Seattle is definitely a balance with, obviously, risk assessment and how much risk we can tolerate."
He said there were no obvious signs that the Douglas fir was going to fall.
"I would say it was totally unforeseen with such high abnormal wind speeds and the amount of rain we had received … any prediction or risk assessment that we would have done if we had seen this tree prior just really wouldn't be valid in such extreme weather conditions," he said.