• Sat
  • Nov 1, 2014
  • Updated: 8:51am
NewsHong Kong
ACCIDENT

Homeowners may face claims after falling tree kills woman outside Mid Levels apartment

Flat owners may be sued after heavily pregnant woman is crushed to death in Mid-Levels; baby saved by caesarean but is in critical condition

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 5:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 8:58am

Flat owners and the management company of a Mid-Levels residential block could face legal action after a tree crashed down a private slope and killed a heavily pregnant woman.

The victim's baby was delivered by emergency caesarean section following the accident at Palm Court, Robinson Road, but was in a critical condition.

Zhang Qin, 37, was waiting outside the 11-storey block for a minibus when the 10-metre-tall Indian rubber tree fell on her shortly after 2.30pm yesterday.

It was the third death in a decade caused by a falling tree following those of a 19-year-old university student in Stanley in 2008 and a cyclist in Sha Tin in 2010.

But yesterday's tragedy happened on private land, and some critics said it highlighted the need for a law to ensure trees on private land were well managed. A tree specialist said the trunk was rotten and infected with fungi.

Zhang was taken to Queen Mary Hospital, where she was declared dead an hour later. The baby boy remained in a critical condition on a respirator last night. "The baby's heart was not beating at the time of birth. He received emergency treatment for some time before being transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit," consultant Dr Ng Yiu-ki said.

Zhang, who was 38 weeks pregnant, lived with her husband - understood to be a security brokerage director - and their two-year-old son in Seymour Road.

University of Hong Kong tree specialist Professor Jim Chi-yung said the Indian rubber tree, which grows rapidly, was unsuited to such a confined slope with thin soil. Jim said this week's rain was only a trigger for the collapse. He blamed the wrong choice of tree and poor management.

"The remains of the tree are as crispy as biscuits, showing serious fungi infection," he said.

Jim suspected the tree was infected with brown root rot disease, dubbed "tree cancer". The government has been criticised for failing to act quickly to stop its spread.

The 48-year-old residential building is managed by Hang Yick Property Management Company. A spokesman declined to comment. But a resident living nearby said the tree was trimmed once a year.

Barrister Albert Luk said the management company, arborists or contractor hired to manage the tree could be sued for damages by the victim's family. He warned flat owners in the block could also be liable. "The flat owners could end up bearing the ultimate responsibility if the management company is wound up because of claims," he said.

The Tree Management Office took samples of the tree for testing, a spokeswoman said. She said property owners should hire contractors to step up inspections in the typhoon season.

Police are investigating.

Additional reporting by Fanny W. Y. Fung

 

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16

This article is now closed to comments

hkscmp123
KILLER TREES ALL OVER HONG KONG!!!!!
As we speak, there are hundreds of similarly threatening trees all over HK Island. From Tai Tam to Pok Fu Lam. Stubbs Road, Peak, Mid-levels. Who knows if they are sturdy or safe judging from the looks? But they look terribly slanting to me! There are children and babies in strollers passing under them this very minute!!!!
It would be a massive job to inspect them all, how about just using plain visual judgement to cut down a few of the horribly dangling ones? We may end up cutting a couple of healthy trees but the lives potentially saved and peace of mind of HK residents is far more important.
oxymoron13
This isn't the US and such claims would never go beyond civil at best. What is a life worth in HK these days? The case concerning a doctor's malpractice in the cause of the life of a newborn baby had her license suspended for 2 years by the Medical Council. That is how much a life is worth.
-
What claims could possibly bring justice and consolation to the family of the victim? The family's got to be loaded so they don't need money. The mother-to-be a director and lives in Robinson Rd.? Claims? How about devoting a moment of silence for his poor family instead of negotiating claims. Are you kidding me?
mercedes2233
Isn't it up to the family to decide whether they prefer the money or your minute of silence?
robroy
Why would they be loaded? I'm leaving a few meters from where it happened, I'm not loaded at all, I have a company that pays for my flat and earn a fairly modest salary.
robertnsparker@gmail.com
Absolutely horrific story. While there is probably plenty of blame to go around, my thoughts are for a young father bereft of his wife and left alone with two babies to raise who will never know their mother. An utterly appalling tragedy.
I hope the father's employer and workmates support him in every way possible.
mr.lobster
Our deepest condolences for the family. And we pray for the child to be fine. Hang in there! I live nearby.
lenali2003
This is not the first time ill trees falling down, killing innocent people. It is dreadfully hoped that the government can indeed learn a lesson this time. Hence it will formulate comprehensive tree polices to prevent such tragradies happening again.
mercedes2233
I knew that sooner or later, the Govt will be blamed for trees falling. Why don't you people make suggestions before and not after accidents? It is so easy to judge with hindsight. And I thought the tree is on private land so owners rather than the Govt are liable.
mdap
It is not an issue of private land or government land. This is simply the result of a government tree policy that is ridiculous; waiting until a tree reaches an incline of 45% before the FEHD department even inspects it! Red tape and a lethargic attitude by the government killed this woman!
stegriff
Why should people have to wait to hear from the government to manage their land? The government actually does a decent job of managing their own land, trees and slopes included. There are other people besides FEHD that people can seek out.

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