Beds, Herts & Bucks

Watford storm death tree had untreated disease, inquest hears

Accident in Lower High Street, Watford
Image caption Donal Drohan died when a tree crushed his car in Watford

A diseased tree that killed a man when it fell on his car during a storm had not been treated because its ownership was unclear, an inquest has heard.

Donal Drohan, 51, of Harrow, died instantly when the tree fell in Lower High Street, Watford, as he drove to work on 28 October.

Tests later showed the presence of fungus that could have weakened the tree's trunk, the hearing was told.

The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.

The inquest in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, heard Mr Drohan died instantly from head and spinal injuries when the tree fell on his red Peugeot 207 at about 06:50 GMT.

'Unimaginable awfulness'

Mr Drohan, a married father-of-three, was the only person in the car.

Despite the efforts of passers-by and the emergency services, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Image copyright JOHN O REILLY 07850 840246
Image caption Mr Drohan lived with his wife in Weald Lane, Harrow, north-west London

"He would have died instantly, I'm sure of that," coroner Edward Thomas said.

"I cannot begin to imagine how awful this has been for his family. The sudden awfulness of this is unimaginable."

Arthur Clarke, a tree expert, told the inquest his examination of the 40ft (12m) Lombardi poplar revealed fungus that could have weakened its trunk.

However, he told the coroner that he had driven past the tree many times and it showed no outward signs of decay.

No inspection of the tree had been carried out prior to the accident as it was not clear who was responsible for its maintenance.

It was later ascertained that the tree was the responsibility of Hertfordshire County Council.

Mr Thomas said it was impossible to say whether inspections of the tree would have made a difference.

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