Tree that fell on car is on city property

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Who's responsible for a terrifying scene that caused a traffic nightmare during rush hour? We first showed you amazing video of the crash Monday night at 11. A tree came crashing down on a woman's vehicle, trapping her inside.

We've learned today that 40ft pine tree is on public property and therefore it is the city's responsibility to inspect and maintain it. But with more than 110,000 trees in the city, that task is complicated.

Pati Cosby didn't have to take a wrong turn for her ride home to go terribly wrong.

"I saw it first as the limbs and then the crunching, the crunching of the limbs as they were landing," she explained.

It was like the tree swallowed her entire car.

"It was behind me," she said. "It was around me. It was in front of me and I knew I couldn't go anywhere."

Amazingly, Cosby escaped without a scratch; we can't say the same for her SUV. Tuesday, we were on scene when a public works arborist showed up to examine the issue.

The ground conditions had become pretty saturated over the last couple weeks and the city said the problem is with what's called the root plate. The jumble of roots is supposed to hold the tree to the ground. It appears it lost its grip.

Spokesperson Sharon North said the department closely keeps an eye on trees that could target a house or sidewalk where if they fell someone would get hurt.

"Well, we would like to be able to check the more than 100,000 trees in the urban forestry all the time but it simply isn't something that can be done all the time," North explained.

We asked North if there was anything the city could have done to prevent the incident.

North responded, "No. We can't predict in advance when one tree might have a root plate failure. This is just one of those things that happened."

If the tree were on private property, that would be another story. Owners are responsible for maintaining their trees. If you notice any leaning, holes or major changes, you should call a professional tree company.

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