December 27, 2019 / 5:03 AM / 24 days ago

Falling redwood kills hiker in California park on Christmas Eve

Dec 26 (Reuters) - A Minnesota man visiting Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco was killed by a falling redwood tree during a Christmas Eve hike with his sister and her boyfriend, the sheriff’s department and local media reported on Thursday.

The victim, identified as Subharadeep Dutta, 28, from the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, was pronounced dead by emergency personnel arriving at the scene early Tuesday evening, about a half hour after the tree collapsed, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Dutta was walking along the park’s Hillside Trail, a popular mile-long path lined with towering old-growth coast redwoods, when the freak accident occurred, according to the San Francisco Chronicle and other local news outlets.

He was “completely pinned by the trunk of the tree,” National Park Service spokesman Charles Strickfaden told the Chronicle.

The victim’s sister was quoted by NBC’s San Francisco Bay-area affiliate KNTV as saying she, her brother and her boyfriend were finishing up their hike just before the park’s closing time around sunset when when they heard the sound of rocks falling.

“I knew by instinct something was coming down,” his sister, whose name KNTV spelled as Swagata Duthu, told the station. “Me and my brother ran in one direction, and my boyfriend ran in another direction.”

The tree toppled over in seconds, showering the sister with debris, “and then I yelled at him from the other side.” Her boyfriend shouted back that he was OK, but no sound came from her brother, she recalled.

“Then I noticed his shoe, my brother, and I noticed something was very wrong,” she said. “We just happened to be at the wrong time at the wrong place.”

There was no word from the sheriff’s office what may have caused the tree to fall, but heavy rains from a series of recent storms could have loosened soil around the huge tree.

Muir Woods, located near the Pacific coast about 12 miles north of San Francisco, is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and ranks as one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region. (Reporting by Steve Gorman in Culver City, Calif.; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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