Man on Way to Funeral Killed by Falling Tree

Family members said the death could have been prevented

A man who was on his way to a funeral was killed when the crown of a palm tree snapped and fell on him in an unincorporated area of East Los Angeles on Saturday morning.

Family members said 49-year-old Tony Calderon was near Dozier Street and Record Avenue about 8:30 a.m. waiting for a ride to his uncle's funeral when the massive crown fell on him, trapping him underneath.

Witnesses said Calderon was crushed, but alive and screaming for help. Bystanders were unable to lift the tree chunk off him, which fire officials said weighed up to 2,000 pounds. Firefighters used a crane to hoist it.

Calderon, a father to a 7-year-old child, was pronounced dead.

Family members said the owner of the property in which the palm tree stood had been asked numerous times over the years to cut it down.

"There's been an issue with a few people around here saying that they need to cut it down," said the victim's brother, George Gonzalez. "It's been going on for 15 years already and it wasn't taken care of."

Lisa Smith, a certified arborist, tree-risk assessor and palm tree expert, said the piece of tree that fell on Calderon came from a Canary Island Date Palm.

"This palm didn't have any outward signs," she said. "It had a lot of live fronds. That's how palms can fool you."

Smith recommends palm trees be inspected once per year by a certified arborist.

Kate Larsen and Andrew Lopez contributed to this report.

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