Northern California couple are killed when giant redwood falls on their car

Family members named the victims as Jake and Jessica Woodruff of Yreka. The couple had five children.
(KTLA-TV Channel 5)

Two people were killed when a redwood tree fell on their car as they drove along a forested highway in Northern California.

The accident took place about 11:45 a.m. on March 25 along Highway 199 near Walker Road in the area of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Del Norte County, said Brandy Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol in Crescent City.

The tree, estimated to be 175 feet tall, fell on top of the couple’s 2016 Honda Accord, crushing the passenger compartment, Gonzalez said. The driver, a 36-year-old man, and passenger, a 45-year-old woman, were killed instantly, she said.

“Honestly, I’ve been in the department for 19 years, and this is the first incident I’ve seen like this,” Gonzalez said.


While trees fall during storms and windy days, they don’t usually land on vehicles, she said. Authorities are not sure what caused the tree to fall.

“The best explanation is Mother Nature,” Gonzalez said. “We live in an area where our highways are basically lined with redwoods — it’s a forested area and mountainous — so we are very prone to natural things happening.”

The victims have not been publicly identified by authorities, but family members said they are Jessica and Jake Woodruff of Yreka, a married couple who were traveling up the coast to celebrate Jessica’s 45th birthday as they did each year, according to North Coast News TV.

Redwood trees line many of the roads in Del Norte County.
Redwood trees line many of the roads in Del Norte County, including Wonder Stump Road, near where a Yreka couple was killed by a falling tree.
(Hailey Branson-Potts / Los Angeles Times)

They leave behind five children, two of them adults in their 20s who will now raise their three younger siblings, the outlet reported.

“They are all dealing with it slightly differently, but I’ll tell you what is absolutely consistent across the board is they are all trying to take care of one another,” Jessica’s cousin, Rachel Lewis, told the news station.

An online fundraising page set up to assist the family had raised nearly $300,000 as of Friday morning.

“This was a shocking and unexpected event, and the tragedy of this accident makes it difficult to accept as real,” the fundraiser states. “These five children are now left without parents and are facing a lifetime of expenses.”