Investigation into latest deadly tree incident in Central Park

June 28, 2010 2:48:09 PM PDT
The vigil continued for a third straight day at New York Hospital for a mother injured by a falling tree limb.

Karla Delgallo was posing for a picture with her baby girl when they were crushed by a falling tree limb.

The child did not survive, and Delgallo remained in critical condition Monday afternoon.

It happened out of a clear, blue sky on Saturday afternoon just outside the central park zoo. City parks officials insisted today that the tree had been inspected within the past six months.

According to Central Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, the tree is at least 70 years old, but appears to have been in very good health.

He said the tree exhibited no signs that it was in danger of losing a limb. The limb that fell was "in full leaf" and appears perfectly healthy. The Wildlife Conservation Society has a team of experts testing it to see what is wrong with it.

Tree is nominally owned by the city, but the responsibility to maintain it lies with the operators of the zoo, which is technically a tenant of the city. They hire outside contractors to maintain trees.

The rate of tree inspections is down from once in seven years to once in ten years. The budget for inspections is also down from 5 million a year to 1.5 million. This incident was the latest of three in the past 12 months.

In February, a 46 year-old man was killed when a branch snapped in a Nor'easter. A branch his family claimed should have been removed.

Attorney Eric Turkewitz says that may have been the case Saturday. However, that doesn't mean the city, or the zoo, or the conservancy, which maintains central park, are necessarily responsible, he added.

In July 2009, a Google engineer was knocked unconscious after being hit on the head by a rotted tree branch at the park.