Placeholder Image photo credit: Santa Rosa Fire Department
The fallen oak limb responsible for injuring six
park goers at Spring Lake Regional Park in
Santa Rosa on July 15th.

There was danger from above this past weekend at Santa Rosa's Spring Lake - that's when a large oak branch sheared off and fell onto park-goers seated below.

For the six people, it was wrong place, wrong time, said Hessel Church Lao-Thai Pastor Khongsai Khiobouakham.

"Some of them, uh, not lucky, you know, and some of them get hit by the big branch,"  Khiobouakham said.

Khiobouakham and other members of Sebastopol’s Hessel Church, attended by a Laotian and Thai congregation, had gathered at Spring Lake Regional Park as part of an annual meet up between fellow Bay Area Lao-Thai church groups.

That’s when the thick oak limb fell and crushed a picnic table, injuring six people seated around it.

Five adults, one with major injuries, and one child with moderate injuries were rushed to local hospitals. All are expected to recover.

Khiobouakham said the tree limb fell too quickly for those below to react.

"By the time that, uh, you know, they're about to prayer, closing prayer for the group," Khiobouakham said. "And then, uh, the, I can hear the click and walk towards them and hear the click and scream out, and then it breaks the, uh, the table, big, table in half."

Khiobouakham said he and the other congregation members are grateful that there wasn’t a worse outcome.

"We move about a hundred yards to the other clear, uh, space," Khiobouakham said. "And we just hold hands and pray for the one that get injury, and we thank God that nobody lose their life."

As of Wednesday afternoon only one of the injured park-goers remains hospitalized, but they are expected to be released sometime this week.

Questions about safety remain though after the six park-goers were injured by a large oak limb that fell on their picnic table on July 15th at Spring Lake Regional Park in Santa Rosa.

Placeholder Imagephoto credit: SRFD
Picnic area at Spring Lake in Santa Rosa closed
down following the falling oak limb incident
on July 15th.


Questions about what steps park staff are taking to avoid another incident in the future specifically.

In the wake of the near-tragedy at Spring Lake, Meda Freeman, communication manager for Sonoma County Regional Parks said parks staff are most importantly happy that the six people injured will be okay.

Freeman said an investigation into the reason why the massive oak limb sheared off is underway.

"We have closed the picnic area," Freeman said. "It's still currently closed to the public and we're really just looking into the conditions out there."

Freeman said there is a suspected culprit.

"The preliminary assessment is that a factor could have been what is called evapotranspiration," Freeman said. "Which is really just the, the process by which a tree takes in and gives off moisture and hot weather can really affect the way that a tree is storing and releasing moisture. And then that can affect limb weight."

But Freeman said it partly a tragedy of circumstance.

"Limb drop can be a common phenomenon in the summer," Freeman said.

Freeman said inspections are a regular part of park work.

"We conduct visual inspections of the parks and the congregation areas just through the regular ongoing maintenance of the park system," Freeman said. "So part of that is looking at trees and if a tree is suspected to pose a risk, if there's anything that we notice with our staff who've been trained to look for potential hazard trees, we then investigate further and take appropriate action. And that often can include bringing in an arborist or tree experts to further evaluate and give us some recommended actions."

Freeman said park staff plan to keep eyes open for problem trees in gathering areas, and she encourages the public to do the same.

"With this incident obviously we're more keenly aware of picnic areas, but if anyone happens to notice anything though, we really ask that they please report it to a park employee," Freeman said.


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