Documents show arborist raised concerns with Jackson square tree 10 days before tragic accident

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A tragic tree incident in Jackson Square may have been avoidable, according to new documentation just obtained by WDSU. It shows the city was warned about the conditions of the tree 10 days before that very tree fell and crushed a teen boy leaving him in critical condition.It happened back in July, leading to a legal battle against the city, tree arborists, and a construction company.”It’s a family that came to visit New Orleans, their tourists from the San Antonio area was their first day in the city,” said Morris Bart, who is representing the family. “It’s a very hot day. It’s during our heat wave. They sit down on this bench in Jackson Square for just a minute in the shade, and that’s when the accident happens.” Bart says this accident could have been avoided as WDSU uncovered a large portion of the tree had fallen 10 days before.”You look at the limb that fell off and the hole left in the tree; there’s obvious signs of decay and rot in that tree,” said Morris. “Despite that, nothing is done. I feel that is negligence. I feel it is unconscionable for the city not to have at least roped off the area or to put yellow caution tape. They left it as is. They left the bench.”The teen, Gavin Cristea experienced brain damage and remains in critical condition in a long-term care facility in Texas. The family is asking for privacy and prayers at this time.In a mayor’s briefing, they said the city had no warning signs of the tree collapsing.”With this, we are making sure Park and Parkways to take inspections seriously. There is always a way to go deeper to go extra mile because we learned you never know even though the tree was inspected prior,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “It was inspected, giving us no indication of collapsing.”But WDSU Investigates obtained a text message from the arborists from Bayou Tree Services to another employee with the city. This was sent right after the first limb fell, saying it “might be time to take it out and replace.” The city employee who received the text said, “That’s what I’m leaning towards too.” Attorney Matthew Hemmer and Morris Bart are representing the teen’s family, and they say after seeing that text, they believe both Bayou Trees and the city could have done more to protect Gavin Cristea, who was in town visiting family for his birthday. “Even if they say we were going to cut that tree down but we need a few days to get our equipment together, and 10 days was too short for us, why didn’t they put tape around it?” said Bart. “Why didn’t they put yellow tape or some warning tape to keep people away from that area? They didn’t do that.” The law firm says Arbor Pro is also to blame after the city paid the company to inspect 110,000 trees in 2020. “After collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city, Arbor Pro concluded that only 11 trees out of 110,000 we’re in critical condition at immediate risk of failure,” said Hemmer. In that report, it does not include the Jackson Square Tree. Even though a drone picture around that time shows, the tree limb was bare. ” I think this demonstrates the claim of people not taking accountability not taking responsibility for fixing this problem,” said Hemmer. WDSU asked the director of Parks and Parkways if there was ever a plan to take the tree down. The response was, “Unfortunately we have no comment.”Representatives with the city’s park and parkways say they can’t talk about the Jackson Square tree because of litigation.This is the 7th tree failure this year in the city of New Orleans. The city says this is an anomaly and is due to the heat. Bart says this is more of a crisis. That oak tree is no longer there, but the accident, Bart says, cannot be forgotten.Bart says with this lawsuit, “It would raise attention to the need for the city to protect our beautiful, majestic live oak trees so that everybody can feel safe, enjoy the beauty.”

A tragic tree incident in Jackson Square may have been avoidable, according to new documentation just obtained by WDSU.

It shows the city was warned about the conditions of the tree 10 days before that very tree fell and crushed a teen boy leaving him in critical condition.

It happened back in July, leading to a legal battle against the city, tree arborists, and a construction company.

“It’s a family that came to visit New Orleans, their tourists from the San Antonio area was their first day in the city,” said Morris Bart, who is representing the family. “It’s a very hot day. It’s during our heat wave. They sit down on this bench in Jackson Square for just a minute in the shade, and that’s when the accident happens.”

Bart says this accident could have been avoided as WDSU uncovered a large portion of the tree had fallen 10 days before.

“You look at the limb that fell off and the hole left in the tree; there’s obvious signs of decay and rot in that tree,” said Morris. “Despite that, nothing is done. I feel that is negligence. I feel it is unconscionable for the city not to have at least roped off the area or to put yellow caution tape. They left it as is. They left the bench.”

The teen, Gavin Cristea experienced brain damage and remains in critical condition in a long-term care facility in Texas. The family is asking for privacy and prayers at this time.

In a mayor’s briefing, they said the city had no warning signs of the tree collapsing.

“With this, we are making sure Park and Parkways to take inspections seriously. There is always a way to go deeper to go extra mile because we learned you never know even though the tree was inspected prior,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “It was inspected, giving us no indication of collapsing.”

But WDSU Investigates obtained a text message from the arborists from Bayou Tree Services to another employee with the city. This was sent right after the first limb fell, saying it “might be time to take it out and replace.” The city employee who received the text said, “That’s what I’m leaning towards too.”

Attorney Matthew Hemmer and Morris Bart are representing the teen’s family, and they say after seeing that text, they believe both Bayou Trees and the city could have done more to protect Gavin Cristea, who was in town visiting family for his birthday.

“Even if they say we were going to cut that tree down but we need a few days to get our equipment together, and 10 days was too short for us, why didn’t they put tape around it?” said Bart. “Why didn’t they put yellow tape or some warning tape to keep people away from that area? They didn’t do that.”

The law firm says Arbor Pro is also to blame after the city paid the company to inspect 110,000 trees in 2020.

“After collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city, Arbor Pro concluded that only 11 trees out of 110,000 we’re in critical condition at immediate risk of failure,” said Hemmer.

In that report, it does not include the Jackson Square Tree. Even though a drone picture around that time shows, the tree limb was bare.

” I think this demonstrates the claim of people not taking accountability not taking responsibility for fixing this problem,” said Hemmer.

WDSU asked the director of Parks and Parkways if there was ever a plan to take the tree down. The response was, “Unfortunately we have no comment.”

Representatives with the city’s park and parkways say they can’t talk about the Jackson Square tree because of litigation.

This is the 7th tree failure this year in the city of New Orleans. The city says this is an anomaly and is due to the heat. Bart says this is more of a crisis.

That oak tree is no longer there, but the accident, Bart says, cannot be forgotten.

Bart says with this lawsuit, “It would raise attention to the need for the city to protect our beautiful, majestic live oak trees so that everybody can feel safe, enjoy the beauty.”

www.wdsu.com

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