Family of Gig Harbor man killed by falling tree seeks answers

The family of Gig Harbor resident Jamie Fay, killed Aug. 29 by a falling tree, wants to know whether his death could have been prevented.

With that in mind, the family has hired former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg to take a closer look.

“If it was purely an accident, purely an act of God, fine,” Ladenburg said Thursday. “But somebody has to make that determination.”

Fay, 36, was killed after the tree fell on his moving station wagon near Borgen Boulevard and Olympus Way in Gig Harbor. He was heading home from Costco at the time.

A windstorm was racing through the area that weekend. The tree, a Douglas fir, was one of a few left standing at the edge of a recent clearcut conducted at the site of Heron’s Key, the largest development in Gig Harbor history.

Shortly after the incident, city officials and a spokesman for the developer said they didn’t believe the clearcut contributed to the incident. City officials also said they had no plans to investigate the possibility.

The family isn’t satisfied with that answer, and thinks the city jumped to conclusions too quickly, Ladenburg said.

“Obviously, they didn’t investigate,” he said. “We’re not assuming anything. We just want to find the truth.”

The clearcut began in mid-August at the Heron’s Key site. The project is a senior-living community, scheduled to open in 2017. Following Fay’s death, the developer said the trees were cut based on specifications approved by the city. A Gig Harbor planner toured the site before clearing began, city officials said.

Ladenburg’s involvement starts with personal ties. Fay was a personal friend; he also was the director of sales and marketing and assistant general manager at the Chambers Bay golf course in University Place.

Ladenburg said he’s hired an arborist from California to investigate the incident. That inquiry will include a look at the city’s forestry plan and policies, to see whether they comport with best practices.

“We’ll look at all those policies and see if those things need to be changed,” he said.

Ladenburg declined to speculate on next steps.

“It just depends on what you find,” he said.