NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A loving husband is heartbroken after his pregnant wife was killed by a falling tree in the very Queens park where they first built their relationship.
As CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported, park advocates on Monday said enough is enough, and called on the city to do something about unmaintained trees. But for the husband of victim Yingyi Li, 30, it is too late.
Kissena Park in Flushing is where Li and her husband, 21-year-old Aleksander Dikov, built their love story after meeting at the local YMCA.
“I remember her laying in bed next to me, I remember her going with me everywhere holding hands, walking in that same park,” Dikov told CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian.
In the very same park Sunday night, his wife’s life — as well as that of their unborn baby daughter — was cut short by an oak tree that came crashing down onto a park bench where she was sitting.
“I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this,” Dikov continued. “It’s already getting so hard on me.”
The tree fell just before 7 p.m. Sunday. Li was six months pregnant when she lost her life to the giant limb.
“To me it’s such a coincidence she was sitting in this place, at this time. I don’t know what could’ve prevented it,” Dikov said.
The couple was preparing to move to a new home bordering the park — the spot where they took their first picture together.
Park advocates said Monday afternoon that the accident was preventable.
“The city does not put enough money into tree maintenance,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens.) “That goes for a tree in a city park or a street tree.”
In fact, advocates said over the last eight weeks, there have been 12 tree-related injuries.
Furthermore, advocates pointed out that over the past four years, falling branches have killed several people.
On June 26, 2010, 6-month-old Gianna Ricciutt was killed and her mother was injured when a tree branch fell in Central Park. About four months before that, restaurant worker Elmaz Qyra was killed by a falling tree limb in Central Park soon after leaving his busboy shift at the New York Athletic Club.
In 2009, Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, 33, suffered a brain and spinal cord injury after a rotten branch fell on him in Central Park. The city paid him more than $11 million after he sued for negligence and lackluster maintenance.
“It is irresponsible to invite the public into its parks while we continue to plant new trees and we cannot take care of the ones we have,” said Geoffrey Croft, President of NYC Park Advocates. “It’s negligent.”
Now, park advocates and Avella have called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to suspend his Million Tree Program, and use the funds directed toward it for maintenance instead.
“We don’t have enough tree prunings. We don’t have enough tree maintenance. We don’t remove dead trees on a timely basis and we don’t do inspections,” Avella said.
Park visitors Monday also questioned whether the city upheld its duty of care to inspect the trees and wondered if Li heard any warning signs.
“Most of the tree injuries that are occurring of late weeks are all split-second incidences,” arborist Carsten Glaeser said.
Officials said the oak tree is approximately 70 years old and 50-feet tall. It snapped about eight feet from the ground. The tree is being thoroughly examined to determine more about its condition.
“NYC Parks is responsible for the maintenance of 2 million trees inside our parks and 600,000 more along NYC streets. Trees along pathways, roadways and playgrounds inside of parks are regularly inspected by Park Supervisors, augmented by our staff of professional foresters, who look for potential defects. There have been six zone inspections in 2013 in this area of KissenaPark, the last one on June 20,” parks spokesman Arthur Pincus said.
“Last winter, our Supervisors completed a retraining program to better identify defects. NYC Parks is in the process of contracting an independent tree consultant to review all of our tree management procedures.”
Whatever the reason the tree fell Sunday night, and whether it could have been prevented or not, Dikov said he is now trying to figure out how to cope with the event that changed his life in a split second.
He now must break the news to Li’s father that his only child is dead and try to move on without the woman who gave him his strength, Dardashtian reported.
“When I was in basic training, she used to send me letters. It was tough on me. I know she was with me and this was the only thing that drove me on,” Dikov said.
Avella said he introduced legislation a month ago in the state Senate to make sure the city inspects, diagnoses and analyzes public trees that cause damage, injury or death.
The tree fell and injured one other person, but those are minor injuries, Dardashtian reported.
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