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June 2, 2013
Two hurt as oak tree crashes down on 49ers coaching outing

Thumbnail image for donatell.jpg

A sprawling, 150-year-old oak tree came crashing down during a lawn bowling outing for 49ers coaches and their wives Saturday evening, injuring two people.

Neither of those hurt suffered life-threatening injuries and neither is affiliated with the 49ers. The tree was so wide that it spread from a parking lot outside the San Jose Lawn Bowls Club in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose to over the club's green. One man in the parking lot was injured when the tree crashed down on his car, one of six vehicles struck. He had to be cut out of the vehicle by the San Jose Fire Department, said club president Larry O'Dea.

A club member, a woman in her 60s, was on the green and suffered a compound leg fracture and a gash to her head, O'Dea said. He said the group - about 20 49ers assistant coaches and their wives - scattered as the tree started coming down. A testament to how fast it fell and how close it came to inflicting more injuries: One unnamed assistant coach came away with scrapes on the back of his neck.

"It was so unbelievably violent and fast," O'Dea said of the fall. "It took five seconds. It was incredible. It just split right down the crotch of the tree from the crotch to the roots. Everybody was yelling, 'run for your lives!'"

Running backs coach Tom Rathman said he and his wife, Holly, heard a sharp crack from the tree and just started running. When he looked back, he said the tree had fallen precisely in the spot everyone had been standing moments earlier. "Very easily someone could have died," he said.

O'Dea said the outing was hosted by defensive backs coach Ed Donatell and that special teams coach Brad Seely, Rathman, quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst and linebackers coach Jim Leavitt were among those in attendance. Jim Harbaugh was not on hand. The group had been bowling for about 20 minutes when the tree fell at about 6 p.m.

O'Dea said the tree was so big that, in the immediate aftermath, there was no way to know how many people were trapped beneath it. He said the 49ers assistants were busy pulling tree limbs away as the fire department and Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office arrived on the scene.

One of the 49ers had been standing next to the woman who was injured when the tree started to fall. After it went down, he realized the woman was no longer next to him and the group began clearing branches to find her. "Those guys were so helpful," O'Dea said.

There was no wind when the tree fell, O'Dea said, and the City of San Jose had trimmed the tree a few weeks earlier.

Photo: Defensive backs coach Ed Donatell.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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