Clay County IDs 76-year-old woman killed by falling tree

Experts say it's important to hire professionals to remove trees

By Marques White - Reporter , Scott Johnson - Reporter

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. - A tree fell on a 76-year-old woman sitting in a lawn chair Monday morning outside her home off State Road 21, north of Keystone Heights. The Clay County Sheriff's Office said Eula Manahan was killed.

Fire rescue crews were called to Blueberry Hill Road just before 11 a.m., but Eula Manahan died at the scene.

The Sheriff's Office said the victim's brother, Norris Manahan, was cutting down the tree and she was not able to move out of the way when it fell in her direction. Homicide detectives investigating the death said other people, including children, in the yard at the time were not hurt.

There's no word on whether any charges will be filed.

"Someone that's suffered something like that is always in my prayers," said neighbor Renee Kirk. "I just hope that the family knows that there's neighbors that are concerned, and we're here for them if they need us."

Investigators said they found wood rot in the bottom of the tree, which appears to have made the tree fall prematurely.

"Wood rot's an issue all over," said Gene Bushor, who has been removing trees for 60 years. "Especially with these water oaks and laurel oaks. They've got a lot of bad decay in them."

Bushor's company has a machine that measures wood rot and whether a tree's hollow – one of many items an amateur tree cutter would never think to use.

Experts told News4Jax on Monday that no one should try to take trees out if they're not a professional, particularly in a yard where other people are nearby, even if they think they know which way the tree will fall.

Bushor said he wasn't surprised to hear about the tragedy in Keystone Heights.

"He should've had a rope in it," Bushor said. "You put your rope in it first, then you cut your wedge. So you've got it tied off, so when it does give way, the rope holds it from falling."

Bushor said cases like the one in Clay County are not uncommon. And while Bushor said it's best to use a tree trimmer who's licensed and insured, it helps to go a step further.

"A lot of them will tell you they're licensed and insured, but what does it take to get a license? Just go downtown, give $75, and all of a sudden you're licensed," Bushor said. "It's that simple, but people should check on workers comp and liability, because it's expensive in this business."

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