Michael Knapp, Urban Forest mgt director of Fairfax County, Va., says tree that killed Carl Roeth of Great Falls, Va., was rotten

10:39 PM, Jul 18, 2012   |    comments
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GREAT FALLS, Va. (WUSA) -- Fairfax County Urban Forest Management Director  Michael Knapp, says 98% of the roots of the 40 ton White Oak that killed a man on Tuesday were rotten.

David Kinney is shaken by what happened. He felt the ground shake when the gigantic tree crushed 64-year-old  Carl Roeth while stuck in traffic on Georgetown Pike in Great Falls around 6:30 Tuesday night.

"It was kind of like being in an earthquake the building actually shook. It's devastating, such a random thing that happened," he said.

Knapp was on site Tuesday night and instructed a second tree nearby to come down.  

"It lost all of its structural integrity because of the fungal in road perhaps bacteria to some extent."

Knapp says in this case, the rotting worked from the base inwards. He also says urban development helped in the tree's demise, including the main road, a bike path, parking lot and storm drain all around the tree. 

There was also lopsided trimming where the tree had to be cut back because of power lines.

It is VDOT's right of way and  they are in charge of maintaining the trees.
VDOT arborist Robert Burris says, "There is no way for me to know if other trees are like this." With 22 million trees in Fairfax County Burris said it would be too daunting to keep track.  They rely on, workers driving by, Fairfax County and residents to let them know about decaying trees.

 Fairfax County has seen four deaths in the last three weeks because of downed trees.  Knapp says that number matches the death rate due to trees of the last 20 years.

Knapp has received a number of calls since this tragedy.  Wednesday afternoon he was in Great Falls checking other nearby trees to see if they have been compromised.

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