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‘A Tragedy That Did Not Need to Happen’: Family Sues Oakland Over Teen’s Tree Climbing-Death at Lake Merritt

The Lewises are gearing up for a second Christmas without their son.

Jack Lewis and his friends climbed a tree limb at Lake Merritt last December. But the adventure ended in heartbreak when the limb crashed to the ground, killing the 16-year-old.

This was the teenager’s “favorite time of year,” his mother Lisa Lewis said.

“I hope it will just not happen again, I just don't want anyone else to get hurt,” she said of the fatal accident.

The Lewises have filed a lawsuit against the city of Oakland, claiming leaders knew the tree was diseased and decaying, and should have removed it.

“This is a tragedy that did not need to happen,” the family’s attorney John Winer said.

There is a fungus growing within a crack in the tree and consulting arborist Denice Britton says there are signs of other troubled trees in the park that are also at risking of toppling.

Some, she said, have the “real potential to fall, especially in [the] wind.”

Eitan Levy Keating, who was with Jack when the tree came down, described the tree limb as a “really, really inviting branch.”

The 17-year-old said they’d climbed and sat on the limb countless times before it snapped. Now, Eitan just misses his friend.

“I just want my friend back honestly,” he said. “It's what it comes down to.”

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