Woman killed outside home by falling palm tree

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – A woman died Saturday after she was struck by a falling palm tree outside her home on St. Simons Island, Georgia. 

Glynn County coroner Joe Chapman called the death of 70-year-old Zaidee Carruth a freak accident.

Chapman said Carruth had stepped outside her home to walk her dog when the tree inside her flower bed fell on her about 10 feet from her door.

Chapman said she died at the scene.

One of Curruth's friends, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was sad to hear the news. Friends said she was a nice woman who worked for a local Christian school.

"She was a good girl," her friend said. 

The island had experienced high winds for most of the day. Power was lost on a portion of the island after a limb was blown onto a power line.

Tom McLaughlin, who lives nearby, said Monday that there have been high winds for the past few days.

"The winds are very high," McLaughlin said. "Brutal, brutal winds. I'm a caddie at Sea Island, so we had three or four club winds on the golf course and a lot of broken tree limbs were here. I was surprised more trees didn't come down."

News4Jax saw tree inspectors going through Carruth's condo complex, inspecting various palm trees on the property. News4Jax also noticed numerous palm trees with apparent damage to the trunks.

Gene Bushor, a certified arborist, said it's very unusual for palm trees to fall, and usually decay in the trunk is the only cause.

"It's got a great big top on it, which is heavy when it's got fruiting bodies on it. It'll become real heavy. If you've got a weak spot in it, of course, the winds will blow it simply because the top is like a mushroom. The top is much heavier and the trunk can't sustain that much weight," Bushor said. 

A memorial for Carruth is being planned by the St. Simons Isle Shag club, a dance club to which Carruth belonged. The memorial will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday at Ziggy Mahoney's on Retreat Village, St. Simons Island.

Carruth's funeral will be at 2:30 p.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church of Brunswick. The visitation will be held at 1 p.m., just before the funeral. 

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