Newport Beach officials began checking the health of several hundred city trees Friday after a 10-ton eucalyptus fell onto a woman's car and killed her, a city official said.
Haeyoon Miller, 29, of Tustin, died Thursday after a near the intersection of Irvine Avenue and Westcliff/17th Street, on the border of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.
Under a 2002 agreement between the cities, Costa Mesa is investigating the accident while Newport Beach analyzes what caused the tree to fall, said Newport Beach spokeswoman Tara Finnigan.
No answers so far.
A preliminary investigation by a city staff arborist found no evidence of disease in the tree, which was estimated to be 60 years old.
“On behalf of the city of Newport Beach, I wish to extend our deepest condolences to Ms. Miller’s family, friends, and co-workers,” City Manager Dave Kiff said in a news release. “Her family will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. I am so sorry that this happened.”
Hoping to avoid similar accidents, inspectors will examine the toppled tree and hundreds of others citywide, Finnigan said. The fallen eucalyptus will be analyzed by the city’s in-house arborist, contract arborists and a third-party arborist to determine if there was an internal problem with it.
The independent arborist will also inspect the more than 100 other trees along the Irvine Avenue median, from Westcliff/17th to Dover Drive. Any plants found to be at risk of falling will be removed, Finnigan said. The investigation should be concluded within a few days, she said.
"Many in our community would say that the Irvine Avenue eucalyptus row helps define the visual identity of the west bay neighborhoods," Kiff said. "We understand that sentiment, but if we find that other trees may be at risk of falling, public safety will prevail, and those trees will be removed."
With an estimated 36,000 street trees around town, Newport Beach has been referred to as a "tree city" for decades, Kiff said. A tree maintenance contractor inspects and maintains the 104 trees on the Irvine Avenue median. The inspections are done every six months, and the canopies are pruned once a year.
After the Irvine Avenue trees are checked, workers will inspect 328 other blue gum eucalyptus trees planted around town.
According to the city, blue gums used to be planted in many communities, but the practice stopped recently because of size and maintenance issues.