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1 dead, 2 rescued after 100,000-pound oak tree smashes into Encino home

A work crew begins removing a large tree that fell onto a home
A work crew begins removing a tree that fell onto a home in Encino on Sunday night, killing a 64-year-old man. Two women and a dog were rescued from the home, unharmed.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
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A 64-year-old man was killed and two people were rescued late Sunday after an enormous tree came crashing down onto an Encino home, authorities said.

The oak tree — estimated to weigh 100,000 pounds — smashed into a two-story house in the 5000 block of Odessa Avenue around 11:14 p.m., according to officials with the Los Angeles Fire Department. Authorities said weather conditions were calm when the tree fell.

Video from the scene shows a badly crushed house amid a chaotic tangle of leaves and branches. The home’s frame had been ripped apart in places.

Rescue personnel found a 64-year-old man dead inside the house, trapped under a section of the tree in a second-floor bedroom, according to Margaret Stewart, a Fire Department spokesperson.

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Two women and a dog were rescued from the roughly 3,200-square-foot home. A firefighter carried the dog out of the wreckage, and the women hoisted themselves over a large section of the tree outside the structure with the help of fire personnel, video shows.

Mark Ruszecki, 43, who lives several houses down, heard a rustling, a rumbling then a crash — and initially thought it was the onset of an earthquake.

“And it just never started shaking,” Ruszecki said.

Once he registered what had happened, Ruszecki grabbed a flashlight and ran out to the street, where people were shouting. He said he heard the dead man’s wife — whom he identified as one of the women who was rescued from the house — saying they needed an ambulance. The other woman was the man’s daughter, Ruszecki said.

Of the man who died, Ruszecki said, “He was a really nice guy, always waved.”

The names of those inside the home have not been released.

Neither of those rescued suffered injuries, and the American Red Cross is helping to provide temporary lodging for the displaced residents, Stewart said.

A private contractor is removing the tree to allow for recovery of the man’s body, she said, noting that the process will probably involve cutting out sections of the tree while taking into account the structural stability of the house.

According to Ruszecki, people in the neighborhood estimated the tree to be 700 years old and said it was considered historic and protected.

It’s not clear what caused the tree to topple.

“There were no high winds, and we had not had rain,” Stewart said.


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