Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Under-pruning may be blamed for Kiwi's tree death

Erena Louise Wilson
Erena Louise Wilson

A New Zealander who died instantly when a tree branch fell on her at London's Kew Royal Botanic Gardens might not have been killed had the tree had been pruned properly, an inquest has been told.

Erena Louise Wilson, 31, from Wellington, was walking through the gardens with friends in September last year, when she was hit by a Lebanese cedar branch, receiving fatal head injuries.

It was raining and windy just before the branch fell and West London Coroner's Court heard on Monday it was a ``fluke'' that only one person was killed or hurt at the gardens, the Daily Mail reported.

The pre-inquest hearing was told either under-pruning or a phenomenon known as ``summer branch drop'', in which trees struggling to absorb water shed their branches, may have caused the branch to break off.

Assistant Coroner Elizabeth Pygott said the probe should focus on whether proper pruning could have prevented the branch falling onto Miss Wilson, the Mail reported.

``There is the question of whether pruning the trees may have prevented the fall from happening,'' she said.

Ms Wilson was living in London where she worked as an accounts manager.

John McLinden QC, representing her family, said the gardens may not have had a policy to deal with the dangers of summer branch drop.

``Kew recognised the danger of summer branch drop and the implementation of it did not occur.

``Did Kew ever warn members of the public of summer branch drop and did they cease those warning? Did they take precautions by cordoning off areas and did they cease doing that as well?''

If the cause of the incident was summer branch drop, the gardens would need to take further measures to protect the public, he said.

Speaking outside court, Miss Wilson's uncle, Pieter van Vliet, told the Mail the family wanted the issue of summer branch drop to be explored during the inquest to prevent further deaths.

``We're not experts but obviously Kew Gardens has trees, a lot of them, so potentially there is a good reason for bringing this up,'' he said.

The hearing continues.

- APNZ

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