Gateway: News

City responds to investigation inquiry of tree-falling tragedy

The family of Gig Harbor resident Jamie Fay, killed Aug. 29 by a falling tree during a windstorm, is seeking answers and has hired a former county executive to look into the tragedy.

Former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg will investigate whether or not Fay’s death could have been prevented.

Days after the incident, Gig Harbor city officials and a spokesman for the developer said they didn’t believe the clearcut conducted at the site of a senior housing development contributed to the incident.

Early last month, The News Tribune reported that city officials said they had no plans to investigate the possibility.

However, the city has yet to hear from Ladenburg, City Administrator Ron Williams said Tuesday.

Even if there were plans in place to investigate the accident, the city does not comment on matters of pending litigation, Williams said.

“It appears that some of Mr. Ladenburg’s assumptions about the city’s intent to investigate are in error,” he said.

The 36-year-old Fay was killed when a falling tree struck his moving vehicle near Borgen Boulevard and Olympus Way in Gig Harbor North. The tree fell from the nearby Heron’s Key construction site where clearcutting had taken place earlier in the month.

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

“If it was purely an accident, purely an act of God, fine,” Ladenburg told The News Tribune last week. “But somebody has to make that determination.”

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

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

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

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

News Tribune reporter Sean Robinson contributed to this story.

Karen Miller: 253-358-4155