Gainesville woman dies when tree falls on home


A tree fell through a house at 6904 SW 33rd Place in Gainesville in the early hours of Wednesday and killed a 42-year-old woman.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 10:41 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.

A 42-year-old woman was killed early Wednesday morning when an enormous oak tree toppled onto the Gainesville home she and her family had lived in for only three weeks, authorities said.

At 2:02 a.m., the tree fell on the trailer at 6904 SW 33rd Place, crushing Dawn M. Ewing and her 40-year-old husband, Michael L. Braton, as they slept, Alachua County sheriff's spokesman Art Forgey said.

Both were pinned under the tree, but officials managed to rescue Braton. He was taken to UF Health Shands Hospital for emergency surgery, Forgey said. He remained hospitalized late Wednesday evening.

The couple's three children, ages 5, 9 and 12, were in a different part of the home and were not injured, he said. All three children are staying with a friend of the family for the time being, authorities said.

The tree, estimated to stand at least 50 feet and roughly 4 feet around, was in the backyard of the single-wide mobile home, located in a wooded area east of Tower Road. Forgey said strong winds toppled the tree.

Pieces of glass and clothing littered the ground on the side of the house in which the tree crashed down. One of the bedroom walls appeared to have been cut out by emergency responders trying to help the couple.

The rotting, mushroom-covered oak had split in two and cleaved the cream-colored home. The crash also burst a water pipe inside the house, which was still gushing water nine hours after the accident.

Inside the bedroom, empty IV bags and blood-crusted gauze lay on the floor. The scene was quiet, save for the wind and the family's barking dog.

Gussie Clayton lives in a trailer about 150 yards from the crushed home, but she said she no idea a tree had fallen on her neighbor's house or that someone had died.

"A loud noise woke me up around 2 a.m., like thunder, but I thought it was the storm," she said, placing her hands over her mouth. "I had no idea. I looked out the window, but I didn't see anything, so I just went back to sleep."

Clayton said the family had moved into the trailer about three weeks ago.

Clayton, who has lived in the wooded area for 43 years, said several trees recently have fallen down in the area on other neighbors' houses.

She cut the long branches on the tree in her front yard to avoid the kind of accident that happened Wednesday, she said.

"I feel for these people," she said. "If it was my house, I would have cut the tree when I moved in. They can be dangerous."

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