A couple visiting San Diego from North Dakota died when a huge tree collapsed onto the house they were renting in Point Loma Heights neighborhood Monday morning, according to KTLA sister station KSWB in San Diego.
The tree crushed the upper floor of a two-story home in the 4400 block of Santa Monica Avenue, just east of Ocean Beach, around 6 a.m., authorities said. Wind gusts of 40 mph were recorded at the time, according to the National Weather Service.
Residents were concerned about tree before fatal collapse
"It was horrendous. I’ve never heard anything like it," neighbor John Collom told KSWB. "It was crashing and people yelling."
Collom said the tree has been there since he moved in 50 years ago and had been at the center of a dispute between the two homeowners on either side of it for quite some time. "The western side was reluctant to have it removed," he said. "It’s been pruned and re-pruned. It was an accident waiting to happen."
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department officials said a man and woman who were sleeping in a room on the second story of the house died. A third person who was on the first story was rescued by firefighters and was not seriously hurt.
The couple were identified as Jessica and Troy Nelson of Grand Forks, North Dakota, by the Grand Forks Herald.
"They were just two peas in a pod," Troy's sister Tammy Reynolds told the Herald. "It is such a peace for us that they went together."
According to the Herald, the couple owned a Trojan Productions, an product promotion company. A staff member at the company told the Herald that the Nelsons were in San Diego to attend a trade show.
Neighbors said that the owner of the home has been renting the house as a short-term or vacation rental. An advertisement on the vacation rental site VRBO.com shows a photo of the house and lists the rental price as $193 a night.
On a Google Maps view of the tree prior to it falling, the extremely large pine leans over the property line.
"It's tragic," Collom said. "The tree is down and that’s sad for some of us, but many of us are happy. But the fact that these two individuals, unassuming people ... were victims of the tree issue."
San Diego Gas & Electric crews were worked to restore several power lines knocked down by the fallen tree.
It took several hours before officials could get to the deceased couple due to the power lines and structural damage. The house has been red tagged by the city of San Diego.
“We’re trying to work with the property owners,” San Diego Police Lt. Christian Sharp said. “It’s really early in the investigation and it’s going to be a couple agencies that are going to be looking into this. Right now, this is looking like this is going to be a natural disaster sort of thing. It’s very tragic, unfortunately.”