Customers ‘Saved' by Tiki Statue When Tree Crashes Through Restaurant

The tree landed on a statue, preventing it from striking four people seated at a fire pit, says the restaurant's owner

The owners of a restaurant in Ventura, California, say a tiki statue saved four people when a 150-foot-tall palm tree came crashing through the roof during a day of powerful wind gusts in Southern California.

An interior security camera captured footage of the tree falling through the roof of VenTiki Lounge Sunday in downtown Ventura, narrowly missing four people on the patio. The footage shows restaurant employees running into view as the tree snaps in two after striking the roof.

"It was howling," said owner Duane Couch of the powerful winds. "It would come in gusts. People would come inside, it would settle down and people would go back outside."

About eight guests had just left the patio area where the tree landed, Couch said. Three customers and a chef were seated near the tree by a ground-level fire pit, but the tree came to rest on a tiki statue.

"That's what saved the four people sitting there on the benches," he said. "It was absolutely miraculous that everyone just happened to not be in the path of the tree."

The patio, roof and an awning were damaged. The owners said they were not sure when the restaurant will reopen, but co-owner Tonya Couch said a ritual to honor the tiki statue is in order.

"The tiki gods were with us," she said.

The tree was one of several knocked down in Los Angeles and Ventura counties Sunday due to damaging winds. Gusts continued Monday, some reaching 60 to 70 miles in northern Los Angeles County.


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