Man killed in apparent tree trimming accident

DENNIS TWP., N.J. - November 1, 2011

The tragedy unfolded sometime between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Tuesday.

Neighbors and relatives say Frank J. Smith, a retired plumber, was up on a ladder trimming some branches from a massive red oak tree in front of his home in the 200 block of Kings Highway in Dennis Township.

But that's when something went terribly wrong and a massive tree branch came down on top of him, killing him.

"His father was at the eye doctor, he lives with his father, his father came home and seen the tree limb lay on top of him and says 'call 911,'" Frank's brother-in-law Carl Marino said.

Frank Smith was living with his 89-year-old father Clarence to care for him. He was also caring for the very large, old and sickly oak tree that his family had grown to love over the years and a tourist attraction for tree lovers.

"I know people come from everywhere and look at the tree," neighbor David Wissman said.

This past summer, Frank Smith measured the tree all the way around and it was 17 feet round.

It is a massive tree, a tree listed as historical in the state of New Jersey, and a tree that he was very proud of. He was also very concerned that one day one of the branches might come tumbling down off the tree.

"Frank was concerned about the big limbs and he had asked me if I knew a tree surgeon and he got a price that was rather high, but he was always concerned about it," Wissman said.

His concerns may have been justified. Authorities are looking into the possibility a large rotting tree branch may have given way as Smith was using a chainsaw to trim the tree.

Meanwhile relatives say Smith's father is devastated.

"He's a World War II veteran so he's pretty broken up. Frank lived in that house to take care of Pop; help Pop out," Marino said.

"I actually cried...it's just something that didn't need to happen," Marino said.

The investigation by authorities is ongoing, but it is being seen as an apparent tree trimming accident.

Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.