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Trees removed following OC driver's death

September 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some 100 blue gum eucalyptus trees in a median that separates the cities of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa were removed following the death of a Tustin woman, who was killed when one of the trees fell on top of her car.

Crews began taking the trees down with chainsaws at 9 a.m. on Irvine Avenue between Westcliff and Dover drives. It was expected to take two days, but crews were able to complete the removal on Wednesday.

City officials say the trees have to come down for safety reasons, but many people were upset that the trees were being killed.

"They're being removed after the city had four separate arborists come out and evaluate the trees and the safety of leaving the trees in," said Kathy Lowe, spokeswoman for Newport Beach Police.

Haeyoon Miller, a 29-year-old Tustin resident, was killed when a 10-ton tree fell on her car while she was stopped at a red light.

Newport Beach city officials say they still haven't determined what caused the tree to fall, but they decided on Tuesday to take all 104 trees in the median down.

"If a telephone pole falls over and it kills somebody, do we take all telephone poles out?" said David Hayes of Newport Beach. "I've been on the phone for 15 hours here trying to get some response. I'm not. I'm disappointed with my city."

Hayes and several others are unhappy with the city's decision, but there was little they could do as trees quickly hacked the trees down.

"I think it was a terrible tragedy that happened, but I think this is an overreaction," said Gail Perkins of Costa Mesa. "It's a very, very sad day for a lot of us here. We've lived with these trees forever."

Officials say because of the way eucalyptus tree roots grow, arborists decided there was no safe way to bring down just a select number of the trees.

"It was decided that the trees could have been compromised over the years. They're very tightly planted together, and if we chose to remove some of the trees, that may compromise them further and cause more trees to fall," Lowe said.

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