Falling Redwood Tree Kills California Parents, Leaving 5 Children Behind

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A 175-foot-tall redwood tree fell on top of a moving vehicle along Highway 199, tragically killing two people in Northern California last week. 

According to the GoFundMe set up for the deceased, couple Jessica and Jake Woodruff of Yreka was on a road trip for Jessica’s 45th birthday when the falling redwood tree hit their vehicle. The couple left behind five children. 

The Tragic Incident

The tragic incident happened Thursday in Del Norte on Highway 199 between Crescent High and Hiouchi. The couple was on a 2016 Honda, driving south along the highway lined with towering redwoods near Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. 

The reason for the tree toppling over was unknown and according to Officer Brandy Gonzales, a spokesperson for the CHP office of Crescent City, it was a nice day with no wind. 

On Thursday, winds were light on the area, as confirmed by the National Weather Service. 

“This is a very forested area,” Gonzalez said. “We have trees everywhere. It’s in the middle of the redwoods. It’s just old growth and we have no idea why the tree fell. It was Mother Nature.”

“There were some gustier winds on the coast, but it was only to about 25 mph,” said Ryan Aylward, a forecaster with the weather service. “This is farther inland and can be more protected. There’s no wind sensor right there but nearby Gasquet had winds to 9 mph. Normally at those wind speeds you don’t expect damage, but that doesn’t mean a lighter breeze can’t knock down a tree. There’s nothing to say it was weather related. There’s nothing in the data that can say it was. It wasn’t something that jumped out to us as a wind-related incident.”

Gonzales stated that the trees do occasionally fall, but an incident as tragic as this is extremely rare. 

“The timing of everything was very, very unusual,” she said. “I’ve been on the department for 19 years and I’ve been in this area 12 to 13 years and it’s very unusual. We’ve had trees fall down and cars make contact, but this kind of incident is very unusual.”

A GoFundMe was set up to raise money for the children left behind and has raised more than $79,000 as of Monday. 

“This was a shocking and unexpected event, and the tragedy of this accident makes it difficult to accept as real,” a message on the page read. “These 5 children are now left without parents and are facing a lifetime of expenses. We are asking that anyone who can support them, please do so, as these children are facing the devastating reality of what was just ripped from their lives in a split second. Those of you who know this family, know how tight-knit they are, and their lives will forever be changed.”