Trees Pose Ongoing Danger to Tourists in National Park
Falling seed pods can cause serious head injuries
Last year, a falling seed pod caused US Navy veteran Sean Mace to suffer a serious head injury while he was visiting the San Francisco Maritime National History Park. Today, the Park Service has made a pitiful effort to correct the hazard and many more tourists may still be at risk of serious injury.
“Little” Seed Pod Does Big Damage
In October of last year, Sean Mace settled down under a bunya pine tree on the park grounds to watch the Blue Angels air show. As he waited for the show to begin, he fell asleep. When he woke up, he was in the hospital.
According to a lawsuit Mace has filed against the US government, the National Park Service, and the San Francisco park, he had been struck on the head by a falling seed pod as he slept. A witness called 911 and Mace was rushed to the hospital. The blow to the head had caused internal bleeding and brain surgery was needed to relieve the pressure. Mace eventually underwent two additional surgeries as a result of the head injury. Today he is left with severe—and probably irreversible—cognitive defects, as well as PTSD and depression.
Now you might wonder…
…how could a seed pod do so much damage?
The seed pods of the bunya pine can weigh up to 40 pounds and measure up to 16 inches around. Even worse, they are covered in sharp, spiky needles so they can cause lacerations as well as blunt force trauma. It is likely that the pod that struck Mace was actually a “baby,” as the impact of a full-size pod dropping from the limbs high above could have killed him.
Park Failed to Warn of Seed Pod Hazards
According to the National Park Service’s own policies, non-native species that present safety hazards should be removed from park grounds. Failing this, fences, netting, and/or signs should be used to protect visitors from the dangers.
Though the bunya pine is indeed a non-native species that was planted deliberately by the Park Service long ago, at the time of Mace’s visit there were no signs, fences, or nets. There was nothing to let him—or any reasonable person—know that a safety hazard even existed.
The good news is this failure makes it extremely likely Mace will be successful in his quest for compensation for his head injury.
The bad news is, his lawsuit may not be the last.
According to locals, though the Park Service has now erected signs and fencing, these measures are inadequate to protect the public. Branches stretch past the fencing and overhang the sidewalk, where they could still drop seed pods on visitors.
Premises Accident Questions?
If you have been injured due to a hazard on someone else’s property, you may have questions about the law, about your rights, and about your chances for securing compensation. Attorney Vargas can help. Call 909-982-0707 now for a free initial consultation.