I write regarding your June 11th account of a fatal crash on Interstate 680 which left an apparently well-respected physician dead after a tree planted alongside the freeway crashed into her car as she was driving north.
While this is indeed a tragic and unfortunate occurrence and our hearts go out to the victim in this incident, I must respectfully object to characterization of this crash as a “freak accident” by some who say it could not have been predicted.
I would argue that it was clear for some time to any and all who study the subject that the tree in question and others along that stretch of highway were in danger of falling and should have been removed some time ago.
Your own assessment of the cause of this horrible crash was essentially correct: “… some said the tree’s root ball, anchored into a sloping hillside adjacent to the highway, appeared to be quite shallow and unable to support its own weight.”
I would take that a step further, however, and say that this incident was one caused by mismanagement and possibly outright neglect.
It is questionable thinking to plant trees that will grow tall enough to fall onto the roadway in the first place. Motorists (myself among them) noticed that this particular tree has apparently been leaning in the direction of the freeway since before it was tall enough to reach the freeway if it were to come down.
This tree started showing initial signs of stress as early as 2014. By the next year additional signs of a dieback were even more recognizable and by 2017 it was clear to most that the tree was almost certainly dead – though we were unable to get out and perform a more exacting visual inspection.
I thought CALTRANS had employees to examine trees which could pose a danger to motorists when their root systems fail or are about to fail but I can say with relative certainty that it was clear for some time that this particular tree was almost certain to fall onto that stretch of highway.
The fact that it killed someone when it came down was doubly hard to comprehend given what some of us saw as clear evidence that it would do so.