ACT News

'He could have been killed': branch falls into bedroom of man with severe disability

The parents of a young man with a severe disability are outraged the ACT government refused to remove a tree they considered dangerous, then two branches fell through the roof and wall of their son's bedroom.

The towering gumtree stands in the backyard of an ACT Housing property run by CarePlus Services that homes three young people with special needs.

Karla Tremethick believes her 19-year-old son, Sam, could have been killed by the limb that snapped from a huge gum tree ...
Karla Tremethick believes her 19-year-old son, Sam, could have been killed by the limb that snapped from a huge gum tree and crashed into his bedroom during Thursday's storm.  Photo: Graham Tidy

During the severe thunderstorm on Thursday afternoon, a branch about 30 centimetres thick and 10 metres long fell through the roof above Sam Tremethick's bedroom and tore a hole about 50 centimetres in diameter.

A smaller branch ripped a 15-centremetre hole in the bedroom's wall, through which sunlight was visible. No one was in the room at the time.

A tarpaulin covers a hole a falling branch punched in the roof of this ACT Housing property.
A tarpaulin covers a hole a falling branch punched in the roof of this ACT Housing property. Photo: Graham Tidy

Mr Tremethick's mother, Karla Tremethick, said the larger hole caused water to seep through into electrical wiring.

"Sam could have been killed," she said.

"There are many more bigger branches still leaning over the house, with extremely vulnerable people inside. There are two boys in wheelchairs here who can't just get up and run."

Ms Tremethick said multiple people, including herself, CarePlus Services staff and previous tenants, had raised concerns to the government about the "dangerous tree" since the middle of 2015.

"But it wasn't even looked at until a few weeks ago," she said.

A spokesperson for Territory and Municipal Services said a tree protection officer assessed the tree on January 8 in response to an application for its removal.

The application was not supported, because the tree "was considered to be sound and healthy and showed no signs of stress or disease".

Another reason TAMS would support a tree removal would be if it "represents an unacceptable risk to public or private safety". But the spokesperson said that this criteria was not met.

The tree would now receive some minor pruning and the branch stubs would be removed as soon as possible.  

"Despite the loss of the branch, the tree is considered to be sound," the spokesperson said.

Victor Lampe, from CarePlus Services, was at the house when the assessment was made.

"I asked the man, 'What if the tree or a big branch falls?' and he said it wouldn't and it would be fine," Mr Lampe said.

Neighbour Shane Blair, who has lived next door for 15 years, said the mother of the previous tenant in the high-support-needs property had "been reporting the tree for ages".

"We thought it was a matter of time before this happened," he said.

The Kim family in the house behind the damaged property hoped the tree would be cut down, as it also stands over their house. Jinhee Kim said she was concerned about the thick branches.

Mr Tremethick's parents think it is "offensive and despicable" that TAMS did not agree to the tree's removal after Thursday's incident.

"The people who live here can't speak for themselves," father Terry Tremethick said.

"It is unfortunate when bureaucracy becomes more important than human beings."