Lucky escape after tree flattens car

A GIANT horse chestnut tree which thundered into a house and flattened a car during the weekend's vicious weather could easily have claimed lives, lucky residents said yesterday.

By James Mortlock

A GIANT horse chestnut tree which thundered into a house and flattened a car during the weekend's vicious weather could easily have claimed lives, lucky residents said yesterday.

One of the most fortunate was 62-year-old Michael Howard, who, only minutes before the tree crashed down on his roof, porch and car, had been busy at his weekly Saturday morning chore of washing his Ford Mondeo.

The homeowner and his wife, Ruth, were both upset by the extent of the damage to their property - in Mills Way, Long Melford, but Mr Howard stressed: “I'm quite relieved really. If it had been half-an-hour earlier I could easily have been killed.

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“I had been out washing the car as usual and had only just come in when I heard this bang and the lights flickered. I looked out of the window and all I could see was this tree in the house.

“Part of it hit the roof, part of it has landed on the front porch and the rest hit the car, which is completely flattened. If I had been there I would have been flattened with it so I feel very fortunate to be alive.”

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Mr Howard said the roof of his cottage, which is in a terrace of five, had been extensively damaged - with branches forcing their way into his bedroom when the tree smashed down.

“My wife is a bit upset. She was at work when the tree fell and was stunned when she saw what had happened but we are both just relieved no-one was hurt,” said Mr Howard.

He said it was difficult to estimate the cost of the damage and he was waiting for insurance assessors to examine the wrecked house front and the Mondeo.

Mr Howard paid tribute to the community spirit prompted by the incident, which also brought down power lines - severing electricity to the row of cottages: “We are staying with our son in Sudbury but people have been so good - we've had several offers of beds. It's good to see that when this kind of thing happens people react in this way.”

Neighbour, Keith Wingar, 33, said the first he knew of the falling tree was at around midday on Saturday when he was walking up the stairs in his cottage: “There was no really loud bang - all I heard was all these branches scrabbling against the window. By the time I got there all I could see was the fallen tree blocking the front doors of the terrace. It all happened so quickly.

“I couldn't get out the front so I went to the back to get outside to make sure everyone was all right. We were worried about the elderly lady in the end cottage but she's okay.

“Mr Howard's house got the brunt of the impact - I'm just relived he had finished washing his car because he could have been killed if he was still out there. The car has been completely flattened.”

Mr Wingar believes his Volkswagen car will also be a write-off, but otherwise his property escaped with only minor damage to his porch and roof. He stressed: “It is repairable - the car isn't - but it's old and no-one was hurt.”

Both men hoped the remaining trees in the belt of horse chestnuts would not be felled as a result of the incident. Mr Wingar said: “It's a real feature of the place - to be able to look out in spring and see the white candles and have the conkers in the autumn.”

Police and fire officers from Sudbury were called to the incident and the minor road was sealed off until the tree debris could be cleared away.

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