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City Sued Over Fallen Coconut Tree

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 12, 2012 StarAdvertiser.com

By Leila Fujimori Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

City sued over fallen coconut treeA 44-year-old Kahala woman who was struck and injured by a falling coconut tree on Waikiki Beach sued the city and its landscaping contractor Tuesday in Circuit Court.

Ana Sofia Krogh-Doyle, a competitive surfer, and her husband, Michael Doyle, sued the city and Smalt & Co., alleging they were negligent in failing to properly maintain, inspect and remove the tree, which her attorney's expert estimates is 76 years old.

Krogh-Doyle and her husband were at Kuhio Beach Park on Jan. 22 when the tree fell and hit the roof of the restroom building. That caused the top 20-foot portion of the tree to snap off and roll off the roof, crushing Krogh-Doyle, their attorney Wayne Kekina said.

She suffered fractures to her spine, ribs and face and an injury to her head, and surgeons inserted metal rods in her back to stabilize her spine, Kekina said.

Krogh-Doyle had competed in surfing and other ocean activities before the incident, and was featured in Women's Surf Style Magazine.

Had the 44-year-old not been in such good physical shape at the time of the incident, "she would have been in a care home," Kekina said.

Her injuries prevent her from returning to work as an American Airlines passenger service representative, which involves lifting heavy luggage, Kekina said.

City spokesman Jim Fulton said the city cannot comment on pending litigation.

The city employs 21 certified arborists and four certified tree risk assessors to monitor, evaluate and maintain its trees, and it contracted Smalt & Co. to maintain the coconut trees at Kuhio Beach Park, Kekina said.

Smalt & Co. was required to provide a daily report to identify and inspect trees for disease, stability and safety, the attorney alleges.

The lawsuit alleges the tree was malnourished and showed signs of declining health for several years, "which should have been known to any qualified tree professional."

"This is a big community concern," Kekina said, adding that about 20 coconut trees remain near the Kuhio Beach Park restrooms.