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Tree cut down after man's death

Man, 68, driving on State Road 16, dies after falling oak tree limb hits car

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – The Florida Department of Transportation announced Tuesday a tree was cut down in Penney Farms after a falling limb killed a 68-year-old driver.

FDOT said its arborist checked out the tree and while there was no sign of disease or immediate danger, removing the tree was the "logical and prudent action to take."

A service for 68-year-old William "Bill" Joseph will be held Saturday, four days after he died on State Road 16 in Penney Farms.

The Florida Department of Transportation is responsible for cutting back rotten trees along state roads.

Tittle said the FDOT contracts with different companies to maintain state roadways, and in the case of the part of State Road 16 where Joseph died, the FDOT contracted with the town of Penney Farms.

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Penney Farms town manager David Cooper said workers check the trees along the road almost every day and there was no way to predict that the one that killed Joseph (pictured) would fall.

"I don't know how you would have known," Cooper said. "We go past these trees every day. We mow the grass on the side of the road every day underneath them, constantly looking."

Cooper said while his crew is not physically climbing trees to inspect them, they take every effort to make sure the trees are safe, and there was no way to tell the inside of the tree was rotted.

"I'd like to think that we've done a pretty good job of looking at everything," Cooper said. "I'm sure there's always something else that can be done, and we'll be looking at that."

Tittle said there are a few options, including getting rid of the trees altogether or trimming some of the branches that hang over the road, but that would mean there would be no tree canopy over the road, and Tittle said that's an option that's really unpopular with the public.

Cooper said Penney Farms takes pride in its environment and community, but even more pride in the relationships between the people who live there. That's why losing Joseph like this hurts.

Cooper had a message for anyone who might be concerned driving the roads in the area.

"It will always be on your mind, but we're taking every step that we can take to visually inspect as much as we possibly can," Cooper said.

FDOT is still investigating along with the Florida Highway Patrol.

Tittle said FDOT will decide whether or not to change any policies based on the findings of the investigation.