8 injured when tree falls on group of people in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park

Hours later, a second tree fell in the same picnic area.

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Monday, August 8, 2022
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The victims were taken to area hospitals where they were being treated for their injuries.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Eight people were injured Sunday afternoon when a large tree fell on a group having a class reunion party in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, then another tree fell hours later.

According to police, the incident happened at about 12:20 p.m. in the 5300 block of N. Georges Hill Drive, near the Mann Center.

"The crack you heard, you thought it was a thunderstorm, but you've seen a lot of smoke," said Florence Hagains, of West Philadelphia.

The eight people who were injured are between 66 and 67 years old, police said. The group was celebrating a reunion for the West Philadelphia High School class of 1972. Action News was told six people were injured immediately after the incident, but that number increased on Monday.

"Every man ran across this park to go pick up heavy tree branches together to get them off the classmates," said Hagains.

While people worked to pull heavy branches off those who were stuck, police arrived to the scene within minutes.

The victims were taken to area hospitals where they were being treated for their various injuries. Three remained hospitalized Monday afternoon.

"We're just praying for them. We're going to try and keep it going, this is something that's annual," Hagains said.

Alumni come together for the tradition to give back to current students and athletes at the school.

"We came together 15 years ago to try and improve the quality of life for students at West Philadelphia High School," said Michael Brown, president of the West Philadelphia High School Alumni Association. "A tragedy like this, we're all saddened. We just wish the families of our alumni brothers and sisters the very best."

Action News reached out to the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department, which issued this statement: "Today a tree fell on park users during a picnic at the pavilion on North Georges Hill in West Fairmount Park. Philadelphia Parks & Recreation arborists responded to assess the site and condition of the fallen tree. The tree was identified as an approximately 90-year-old white oak, and has been cleared from the scene."

Then just hours later, a second tree came crashing down 100 feet away, also in the North Georges Hill picnic area, where the class of 1982 was having a gathering.

No injuries were reported in that incident. Action News spoke with witness Rosco Wilson.

"We're sitting there and hear the cracking and cracking. I look back and the tree is falling down," Wilson said.

Wilson is calling on the city to ramp up inspections of older trees.

In its response to Action News following the first tree falling incident, the Parks and Recreation spokesperson said the department inspects the picnic sites weekly.

"Park supervisors inspect picnic areas for hazards, items in need of repair, and fallen or hanging tree branches. This picnic site was inspected within the last week," Soukup said.