San Jose

Man Who Loved to Pick Lemongrass Killed When Eucalyptus Tree Falls in San Jose’s Berryessa Park: Neighbor

Neighbors who live near Berryessa Creek Park, where an older man died Monday when a eucalyptus tree fell on him, were saddened to hear about the tragic accident and are now worried about more trees falling down.

The Santa Clara County Coroner on Tuesday had not yet formally identified the man.

Michael Aceves, 33, whose parents live across the street from the park on Messina Drive, told NBC Bay Area that he believes he knows who was killed, based on the white mountain bike that was left at the deadly scene: A hard-of-hearing Asian man in his 60s who came to the park regularly to exercise with friends and pick what he believes was lemongrass at the park.

“I just saw the guy last Thursday, sitting in the dirt. He’s out there rain or shine,” Aceves said. “I’ve always worried about those trees falling, right on my parents’ house. Now that one has fallen, what are they going to do about it?”

The 70-foot-tall eucalyptus tree fell Monday just after 3 p.m., and now officials are investigating whether the cause could be weather or drought related. San Jose city spokesman David Vossbrink said it appears as though the tree is on city property and staff and arborists will be investigating what happened.

"We share in feeling the shock and loss caused by the accident, " Vossbrink said, "and we’re now looking to understand better what happened so that we can learn whatever we can from the situation."

 At least four other people have been killed by fallen trees over the last few years, including a counselor at Camp Tawonga in 2013 and two 14-year-old boys in August 2015, both in Yosemite, and a 16-year-old boy in Oakland, who was climbing a tree in December 2015 near Fairyland when the branch broke.

Many residents in the neighborhood are concerned the tree's health may have played a role in it toppling over and want other trees around it to be inspected.

"It's just dangerous," Jennifer Peterson said. "It's something that needs to be taken a look at around here. There's lot of kids around here."

NBC Bay Area's Ian Cull and Kristofer Noceda contributed to this report.

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