SAN DIEGO – A couple visiting San Diego from North Dakota died when a huge tree collapsed onto a house they were renting in Point Loma Heights Monday morning, according to KSWB.
The tree crushed the upper floor of a two-story house the couple were staying in. The National Weather Service recorded wind gusts of 40 mph during the time the tree fell.
“It was horrendous. I’ve never heard anything like it. It was crashing and people yelling,” a neighbor told KSWB. “The tree has been here as long as I’ve moved here 50 years ago. It’s been pruned and re-pruned. It was an accident waiting to happen.”
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department officials said a man and woman who were sleeping in a room on the second story of the house died. A third person who was on the first story was rescued by firefighters. He was not seriously hurt.
The couple were identified as Jessica and Troy Nelson of Grand Forks, North Dakota, according to the Grand Forks Herald.
"They were just two peas in a pod," Troy's sister Tammy Reynolds told the Herald. "It is such a peace for us that they went together."
According to the Herald, the couple owned a Trojan Productions, an product promotion company. A staff member at the company told the Herald that the Nelsons were in San Diego to attend a trade show.
Neighbors said that the owner of the home has been renting the house as a short-term or vacation rental. An advertisement on the vacation rental site VRBO.com shows a photo of the house and lists the rental price as $193 a night. The listing says the two-story, 1,000 -square-foot home has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and sleeps four to six people. The listing has 78 reviews.
“Woke us up, and then I looked outside my west viewing window over towards that tree and it was no longer there,” said neighbor John Collom.
Collom lives across the street and woke up to the sound of the tree crashing. He says the large Torrey Pine had been at the center of a dispute between the two homeowners for quite some time.
“The western side was reluctant to have it removed,” said Collom.
On a Google Maps view of the tree prior to it falling, the extremely large pine leans over the property line.
“It’s tragic. The tree is down and that’s sad for some of us, but many of us are happy. But the fact that these two individuals, unassuming people, who were, I’m thinking were, they’re just as friends or renting or whatever, were victims, of the tree issue,” said Collom.
Several power lines in the area were down due to the fallen tree. San Diego Gas & Electric crews were at the property working on them.
It took several hours before officials could get to the deceased couple due to the power lines and structural damage. The house has been red-tagged by the City of San Diego.
“We’re trying to work with the property owners,” said SDPD Lt. Christian Sharp. “It’s really early in the investigation and it’s going to be a couple agencies that are going to be looking into this. Right now this is looking like this is going to be a natural disaster sort of thing, It’s very tragic unfortunately.”