Tree trimmer injured at San Diego hotel when palm uproots and falls with him in it

Tree trimmer injured
A tree trimming truck from Arbor West Tree Surgeons outside the Embassy Suits hotel in University City on Thursday.
(OnScene TV)

A tree trimmer working 30 feet up a palm tree inside a San Diego hotel was injured Thursday morning when the tree uprooted and fell over with him tied to it, his supervisor said.

The accident occurred a little before 11 a.m. while workers from Arbor West Tree Surgeons were removing several caryota palm trees at Embassy Suites by Hilton San Diego-La Jolla, on La Jolla Village Drive near Westfield UTC, according to Joe Jaha, a supervisor with Arbor West.

For the record:

10:51 a.m. Jan. 24, 2020This story has been corrected to reflect a change in law that requires any hospitalization, regardless of time, to be reported to Cal/OSHA.

San Diego emergency personnel initially reported a hotel guest was struck by a falling tree.

Jaha said the injured worker was a “very experienced tree trimmer” and climber who was about 30 feet up the 40-foot tree.

“Unexpectedly, the tree uprooted, and he went down with the tree,” Jaha said. “We inspected the trees before we started. They looked healthy, just shallow-rooted. ... He didn’t fall out of the tree, he fell with the tree.”


Medics took the man to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.

He sustained a broken leg, broken arm and cuts to his face, according to Luke Brown, a spokesman for the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He was treated and released by 4 p.m.

Both Arbor West and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department notified Cal/OSHA about the accident, Brown said.

Because it did not involve a fatality, a 24-hour hospitalization or the loss of a body part, it did not trigger an automatic Cal/OSHA investigation, but local personnel from the state agency have three business days to decide whether to investigate.

Jaha said the worker was lowering a trimmed piece of the tree to other workers when the caryota palm, also known as a fishtail palm, began to slowly uproot and tip over.

“He didn’t drop a whole 30 feet, it was gradual,” Jaha said. “But it was still a fast drop.”

Jaha said the worker was tied into the tree properly and was wearing his safety equipment.

“It’s devastating — we hate to see anybody get hurt,” Jaha said. He added that the incident was “unforeseen. All the safety precautions in the world aren’t going to prevent something like this.”

Riggins writes for the San Diego Union Tribune.