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Firefighters: Rescuers Trying to Save Woman Crushed to Death By Tree Did Not Drop Trunk On Victim

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Firefighters are disputing the accounts of witnesses who were standing by as rescue teams from Newport Beach and Costa Mesa tried to save a woman who was fatally crushed by a towering eucalyptus tree yesterday.

Witnesses initially reported that firefighters conducting the rescue operation dropped the trunk back onto the car, which crushed it even further.

"At no time did that come down on the patient ... and do any pressing injuries," Costa Mesa Fire Capt. Fred Seguin told The Daily Pilot. "It did not come in contact with the patient. It's an operation that, unfortunately, is a slow, safe operation."

Crews rushed to use chainsaws to cut the tree into manageable sections and braces to keep the log from rolling. The part of the trunk on the car weighed 9,000 pounds, according to The Daily Pilot.

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"The tree was lifted and at that time the firefighters stabilized it and it never went back down," said Jennifer Schulz from the Newport Beach Fire Department told ABC 7.

As they lifted, Seguin said the tree "resettled." A paramedic was inside the car hooking up an IV to the woman while crews lifted the tree.

Seguin added that the driver, identified as Haeyoon Miller, 29, of Tustin was already unresponsive when crews rushed to the scene, just five minutes after the tree fell. Witnesses had reported that Miller was talking and breathing after the initial fall.

Officials are still trying to figure out what caused the tree to fall: it wasn't a particularly windy day; the tree had been recently pruned; the driver did not hit the tree; and it doesn't appear initially that the tree had any diseases. However, one local arborist, who had not seen the tree, told ABC 7 that if the tree's roots were decaying, that could have caused the tree to fall.

A smaller tree next to the fallen one was cut down as a precaution, ABC 7 reported.

In possibly related news: The tree that crushed Miller in her car was a eucalyptus, the same species that Woodland Hills resident Darlene Corby has been trying to get the city of Los Angeles to trim or remove from her street for years. No one on her street has been hurt, but so far tree branches have crushed at least two cars in the neighborhood. Corby has gotten so frustrated with the city's response that she is considering posting signs reading "Killer trees! Don't walk down this street."