HARLEM, N.Y. (1010 WINS/ CBS 2) — A Harlem woman is out of the hospital and back home after a close call Friday morning.
Catherina Villafuerte couldn’t hold back the tears in her eyes as she looked at the tree that could have killed her Friday morning. The high school teacher and mother of two was clearing away leaves from the storm drain in her backyard at the height of the heavy downpour when branches from a huge tree from her neighbor’s backyard came crashing down.
“I heard a gush,” Cordero told CBS 2’s Magee Hickey. “Then I saw a tree down and I saw my mother down.”
Villafuerte told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa that several branches came crashing down hitting her on the shoulder and head before pinning her to the ground.
“I stumbled forward as I felt another branch hit my back – then it all came down,” Villafuerte said. “[I thought] let me make myself as small as possible so I wouldn’t get hit as much. I called my son to get his dad.”
“I went to help my mom, but the branches were on top of branches and were too heavy,” Villafuerte’s son, Joaquin Cordero, said.
Villafuerte’s husband, Hector Cordero, called the fire department when he realized he couldn’t help her.
“I saw her crying and caught up in the nook,” he said. “She was almost paralyzed, she was pretty badly banged up, bruises all over her back.”
Villafuerte was rushed to St. Luke’s Hospital with blunt head trauma. After a series of CAT scans, she was released Friday afternoon. She came home – still in her hospital gown – to hug her son and husband, realizing that if she had just been a few inches closer to the tree, she may have lost her life.
Villafuerte said she’s in good spirits ,but has a big bruise on her back and a lump on her head. She’s determined to go back to work Monday as a substitute teacher in Brooklyn.
Neighbors were hoping for a full recovery.
“My prayers go out to her and her family,” said neighbor Mark King. “They are always in the backyard with their children. That tree’s been leaning for awhile, it was just a matter of time.”
King added that the tree is on the landlord’s property, putting him at fault for the accident.
The landlord said the tree was healthy before Friday, and he will pay for any damages that occurred as a result of the fallen branch.