Sandra Mazuera’s Memorial Day picnic with friends took an unexpected turn this year when a small breeze led to an injury that landed her in the hospital.
The 38-year-old Chicagoan was cleaning up her picnic at Lunt Beach in Loyola Park when a 15-pound tree branch crashed down on her head.
“I [heard] a little bit of a wooden cracking sound,” said Mazuera. “I just fell to the ground along with this branch. I was not expecting to be conscious.”
Mazuera was taken to a hospital in Evanston by ambulance. Doctors put in three staples to close the wound on her head.
“The worst of it really has been neck pain, stiffness,” said Mazuera. “What if this branch landed on a child or someone elderly? They might not have made it.”
In a statement, the Chicago Park District told NBC 5 that they have attempted to contact her. As of now, Mazuera is not seeking legal action but wants to get her story out so that others can be aware of the “hidden danger” in their yards and in parks.
Chris Kingzette, a certified arborist with Davey Tree in Burr Ridge says to look for vertical and horizontal cracks around the connection points on tree limbs.
“Look for broken branches; look for things that are just dangling,” said Kingzette. “Sometimes the parts of the tree that fail at that moment might have already broken free prior to that moment.”
Kingzette says mushrooms at the base of a tree can point to signs of decay and therefore, weakness.
You should also look for deep cavities that could mean the tree is dying or diseased.
The Chicago Park District says it performs regular maintenance on its more than 250,000 trees across the city; this includes the removal of dead or diseased trees, as needed.
Anyone can report their concerns to the Park District in person or by calling the city at 311.