The tree that fell and killed a Gig Harbor father of two during the summer had root rot disease, making it more likely to topple in high winds.
That is according to a report by Ruben Green, a certified arborist from California hired by Jamie Fay’s family.
“Based on my experience, this tree should have been inspected and identified as a substantial risk for failure, particularly given its location and its susceptibility to strong wind loads,” Green wrote in the report released Feb. 5 by attorney John Ladenburg, Sr.
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Green visited the site of Heron’s Key, a senior living community under development on Borgen Boulevard in north Gig Harbor, at the end of October.
The visit came almost two months after the Aug. 29 windstorm that blew the Douglas fir onto Fay’s car as he was driving home from Costco with his 3-year-old daughter. The girl was not injured.
Green, after inspecting the tree, estimated approximately 60 percent of its root structure was missing or compromised.
“Advanced root decay was so prevalent on the clear-cut side of the tree that a noticeable wound was readily apparent,” Green wrote. “This obvious defect would have been visible to any complete inspection prior to its failure.”
Ron Williams, Gig Harbor city administrator, said Monday that Ladenburg hadn’t complied with an agreement to provide the report to the city when it was finished. Williams also criticized The News Tribune for publishing a story on its website before the city had the report.
“...this accident was a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with the Fay family at their time of loss,” Williams said in an email. “We regret the efforts by some to try and affix blame to this accident. It is apparent with the involvement of lawyers and their hired consultants that litigation is being considered and therefore the city will decline commenting on the most recent allegations included in this arborist’s report.”
In a statement, Emerald Communities declined to comment on the report, saying it continues to investigate the accident and “remains saddened by the tragic loss for the Fay family.”
Two months after Fay’s death, officials said the tree that killed him had been slated for removal.
Subcontractors responsible for logging the site “were in the middle of their operation. They weren’t done,” Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, said in October.
OPG, a subsidiary of timber company Pope Resources, sold the land to Redmond-based Emerald Communities to develop Heron’s Key, the largest project in city history.
OPG was hired by Emerald Communities to clear the 18-acre site. OPG subcontracted the clearing to a company that subcontracted the job to a logging company.
Ladenburg hopes to get answers from Gig Harbor officials and the developer about when site inspections occurred and whether the clearing was done in accordance with city code.
A separate arborist report from Sept. 3 listed 26 trees damaged by the Aug. 29 storm that needed to be removed.
Arborist Galen Wright identified 150 trees that he said should be removed from the property in his visits before and after the storm. Wright was hired by Emerald Communities.
Email exchanges obtained by The News Tribune between city officials, Emerald Communities officials and Wright show some trees Wright identified for removal were not immediately removed despite his warning that the trees were hazardous or could become hazardous.
After a second tree fell onto the sidewalk of Borgen Boulevard at the end of October, Gig Harbor officials closed the busy road until Emerald Communities removed the dangerous trees three days later.