A Minnesota man was killed by a falling redwood tree during a Christmas Eve hike with his sister and her boyfriend at a national park near San Francisco, the sheriff’s department and local media reported on Thursday.
The victim, identified as Subharadeep Dutta, 28, from the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, was pronounced dead by emergency personnel arriving at the scene early Tuesday evening, about a half hour after the tree collapsed, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Dutta was walking along the Muir Woods National Monument’s Hillside Trail, a popular mile-long path lined with towering old-growth coast redwoods, when the freak accident occurred, according to the San Francisco Chronicle and other local news outlets.
He was “completely pinned by the trunk of the tree,” National Park Service spokesman Charles Strickfaden told the Chronicle.
Dutta’s sister was quoted by NBC’s San Francisco Bay-area affiliate KNTV as saying she, her brother and her boyfriend were finishing up their hike just before the park’s closing time around sunset when they heard the sound of rocks falling.
“I knew by instinct something was coming down,” his sister, whose name KNTV spelled as Swagata Duthu, told the station. “Me and my brother ran in one direction, and my boyfriend ran in another direction.”
The tree toppled over in seconds, showering the sister with debris, she said, “and then I yelled at him from the other side.”
Her boyfriend shouted back that he was OK, but no sound came from her brother, she recalled.
“Then I noticed his shoe, my brother, and I noticed something was very wrong,” she said. “We just happened to be at the wrong time at the wrong place.”
Subharadeep Dutta died doing what he loved
According to his social media accounts, Dutta was lover of the outdoors who frequented national parks across the United States. He said he was originally from Jamshedpur, India, and worked as a firmware engineer for Seagate Technology.
In September, Dutta changed his Facebook profile picture to a portrait of him at Estes Park in Colorado. He captioned the photo with a quotation by writer and traveler Sue Fitzmaurice: “You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.”
Authorities said the redwood that killed Dutta was 200 feet tall and four feet in diameter. Strickfaden, the park spokesman, said the tree likely fell after several winter storms had moved through the area in recent weeks.
“This is a very rare, and isolated event that may have occurred due to wet ground from recent winter storms, around the roots of the tree,” he told The Associated Press in an email. “The National Park Service extends its thoughts and prayers to all those involved.”
Muir Woods, which is located about 12 miles north of San Francisco and attracts millions of visitors a year, remained open. Only the section where Dutta died was closed so staff could remove debris.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Culver City, California; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Pluralist contributed to this report.)