Woman killed by tree branch identified

August 6, 2009 3:31:40 PM PDT
A young woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a freak accident took her life.

The victim has been identified as Katie Ladany. She was originally from Montclair, N.J., but lived in Philadelphia according to police.

Ladany, a recent graduate of Bucknell University and a teacher at the Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School, was killed Wednesday night off Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park when a large limb snapped off a tree in Wissahickon Park and crashed down on her while she was jogging.

She was found by another jogger around 6:20 p.m. She did not have any identification on her, and it took police some time to find her family. They identified her body at the morgue Thursday morning.

"It appears she was struck by a large branch about 30 feet in length that broke off a tree about 50 feet high in the air," Chief Inspector Small of the Philadelphia Police said.

The tree branch fell the equivalent of about five stories. The impact of the falling branch appears to have broken Ladany's neck. She also suffered a severe head wound and a compound fracture of the leg.

Investigators say she most likely didn't see or hear the limb coming.

"She was wearing an iPod and when police arrived to the scene the iPod was still playing music," Chief Small said.

The Forbidden Trail in Wissahickon Park is a popular spot for joggers and hikers and is relatively secluded with numerous hills and side trails.

Chief Inspector Small, a veteran officer, says he's never seen a tragic accident quite like this one.

"On a jogging trail that's used every day, especially in this weather, for someone to be walking down the trail or jogging down the trail to get struck by a fallen branch to the point she was killed instantly, this is a freak accident," Chief Small said.

Investigators don't know why the limb snapped off or if recent weather played a role.

A neighbor of Ladany was stunned by the news.

"I would never expect it at the prime of her life," said Leona John. "She just graduated college, embarking on a new career, and it's just so sad. I really feel for her family and my thoughts and prayers really go out to them."

Ladany was a first-year teacher at Dobbins High School.

"She loved it, she talked about the kids all the time, she'd kid around about them. She loved what she did. She wouldn't trade it for the world," said neighbor Mike Flora.

A similar incident happened just last week in New York City. A Manhattan computer engineer walking to work through New York's Central Park was hit on the head by a 100-pound rotted tree branch. He survived, and his mother said over the weekend that he was getting better.