A 42-year-old woman died Wednesday morning after strong winds caused a 100-foot tree to fall onto a mobile home where she and her family lived in southwest Gainesville.
The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office received a call at about 2:20 a.m. from Michael Braton, who said a large tree fell through his house at 6904 SW 33rd Place, and that he and his girlfriend, Dawn Ewing, were pinned to their bed and trapped in the bedroom.
Deputies, Alachua County Fire Rescue officials and three men from tree removal company Langston Tree responded. They used air bags and braces to lift the approximately 10-ton tree about 14 inches off of the couple, which was enough room for officials to pull them off the bed.
Braton, 40, received several injuries, including broken bones, said ASO spokesman Art Forgey. Ewing, however, died from being crushed by the tree. Authorities also rescued three children, ages 5, 9 and 12, who were on the opposite side of the house when the tree fell, Forgey said. They weren’t injured.
Paramedics took Braton to UF Health Shands Hospital, where doctors took him into surgery. He remained hospitalized Thursday.
Wes Langston, who owns Langston Tree, said Wednesday’s incident was an unusual call for him and his crew.
“I have never taken trees off of people,” Langston said. “That’s something I hope to never have to do again.”
Officials determined heavy winds caused the tree to topple onto the house. Forgey said the sheriff’s office received more calls throughout the day about fallen trees around the city. None of the calls resulted in injuries.
At Braton and Ewing’s house Thursday, the tree remained lodged on top of the couple’s bed among broken pieces of metal, fiberglass and wood. Clothes, debris and furniture sat untouched outside the house. A notice taped on the front door from Alachua County Animal Services stated two cats and a pit bull mix had been removed from the property.
Gussie Clayton, who lives near the house with her 68-year-old husband, Louis, said she woke up Wednesday morning to what she thought was thunder. She checked outside but saw nothing. She didn’t find out about the tree falling on her neighbor’s house until later.
The 73-year-old said she’s known Braton, Ewing and their children since they recently moved into the house down the road.
“They seem to be really nice people,” she said. “I just wish (the incident) hadn’t happened.”
A version of this story ran on page 5 on 11/15/2013 under the headline "Woman dies, family rescued after tree falls on mobile home"