Family crushed by 15-metre tree in Queenstown still traumatised

A Wellington family who was seriously injured when a large willow tree came crashing down near the Shotover Jet headquarters in Queenstown have spoken out about their terror. 

It comes as a Department of Conservation report obtained by Newshub found that the tree should have been identified by DoC as a risk.

It's been five months since the tree fell on Selma George and her family, but she's still recovering, struggling to walk without help.

"I'm still having sleepless nights and having nightmares, and when I close my eyes, I can still see the incident," George. 

Selma and her husband Jerin were holidaying with their two children, Dalin and Daphney, in Queenstown in January when the terrifying ordeal occurred.

The family was sitting on a picnic table at Morning Star Reserve watching the Shotover Jet boats when strong wind gusts brought the 15-metre willow tree down.

"The tree just fell quickly and suddenly with no warning at all," George says. 

Five-year-old Dalin suffered significant trauma to both sides of his lungs, as well as a fractured wrist. 

He and his two-year-old sister Daphney were airlifted to Dunedin Hospital while their father watched on. 

"These are my family you know, these are my world," Jerin said. 

Selma was left with a dislocated hip, a broken left pelvic socket and a broken femur requiring multiple surgeries.  

The tree had decaying roots, and DoC says that was unlikely to have been identified in a standard check.

But its incident report obtained by Newshub says the primary cause of the accident was that very failure to identify the tree as a risk to the public. It says ongoing maintenance and risk assessment of the tree should have been undertaken, as it had appeared to have been done for other trees in the area.

George and her family are now considering the option of legal action.  

"I'm not blaming, but I can say strongly it is due to negligence a freak accident, that changed one family's life forever."


Contact Newshub with your story tips: