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Giant pine cone crashes on couple

'Missile' leaves Bradleys shaken

SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 13:00 13/04/2012
Dreen and David Bradle
PATRICK HAMILTON/Fairfax NZ

SHOCKED: Dreen and David Bradley, of Titahi Bay, Wellington, were struck by a falling seed pod from the heritage bunya pine tree in Queen's Gardens on Easter Sunday.

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A Porirua couple have escaped serious injuries after they were hit by a pumpkin-sized cone that fell from a heritage tree in Nelson's Queen's Gardens.

Dreen and David Bradley were left shocked, bruised and requiring hospital treatment when the large cone from the bunya pine tree fell on them about 12.15pm on Sunday.

"I remember hearing the crash through the foliage... and turned and thought who is throwing things at me," Mr Bradley said.

He looked down and saw the "missile" sitting on the ground and realised what had happened.

Mrs Bradley was left shocked and crying by the incident.

The couple said they were strolling hand-in-hand through the gardens when the bunya cone struck them. It hit Mrs Bradley below her shoulder, leaving a melon-sized purple bruise. It grazed Mr Bradley's arm, leaving deep scratches. He later went to hospital to ensure no barbs from the cone were left embedded in his arm.

The couple believed they would have had more serious injuries if the pod had hit them on the head, especially as the cone, which weighed a few kilograms, had fallen from some height.

They contacted the Nelson City Council on Monday and the council has since fenced off the area around the tree, which is on the Chinese Garden side of the garden's fountain.

Both said they were pleased the council had taken the incident seriously and wanted to warn others that the bunya tree could be "quite dangerous".

"We want people to be careful walking through the Queen's Gardens or underneath trees."

Bunya pines are large evergreen coniferous trees, which are native to Queensland, Australia.

Trees can grow to 30 metres to 45m tall and cones can be 30 centimetres in diameter, some weighing as much as 16 kilograms.

The cones can kill someone if they fall on their head. Bunya trees have been cut down in some parts of Australia due to this risk.

The couple were visiting Nelson for the Russell family reunion at Easter, which they helped organise. Mrs Bradley's maiden name was Russell.

They plan to take the bunya cone home with them to show people when they tell them their story.

"I don't think we will be planting it to grow," Mrs Bradley said.

Nelson City Council horticultural supervisor Peter Grundy said an aborist had looked at the bunya tree in Queen's Garden and there were two to three other cones in the tree's canopy, which it would look at getting dislodged.

He said there were five bunya trees in Nelson, three of which were on private property. One of the trees was in Milton St, one on the corner of Brook St and Westbrook Tce, one in the grounds of Nelson Hospital, and one in Bishopdale.

The council would look at the other four trees over the next week. He was not aware that all the trees formed cones.

Richmond aborist Brad Cadwallader said the number of cones produced on the trees seemed to vary. He said the tree had been in Queen's Garden for a long time and probably tens of thousands of people had walked under it in the past 50 years.

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- The Nelson Mail

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