Family mourn Kiwi killed by falling branch in London

MATTHEW APPLEBY
Last updated 12:35 26/09/2012
Erena Louise Wilson
TRAGIC: Erena Louise Wilson.

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The family of Wellington woman Erena Louise Wilson, who was killed by a falling tree branch in London, have spoken of their sadness and expressed their gratitude to emergency services following the death.

Wilson, 31, an accounts manager, died instantly when she was struck by a falling tree branch in London's Kew Gardens as her friends ran for their lives, an inquest has heard.

"We are very saddened by the death of our beloved Erena Louise Wilson," the family said in a statement.

They wished to express their sincere thanks to the emergency services in England, "whom we are told did a remarkable job with their attendance to the scene and their attempts to revive Erena".

"Our thanks to the police and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New Zealand High Commission, both in New Zealand and England, for their promptness at getting in touch with and keeping her mother informed and arranging for Victim Support Services, who were with her immediately".

"Please respect our wishes for privacy at this time, while we come to terms with our loss and as we make arrangements for Erena to be returned home".

'LOUD CRACK'

Wilson was visiting the Royal Botanical Gardens in the city's south west with two friends on Sunday (Monday, NZT) when there was a "loud crack like thunder".

The New Zealander's friends looked up and saw a 30cm thick branch from an 18m tall Lebanese cedar coming crashing down.

The pair fled to safety but when they looked back were horrified to see Wilson lying face down on the ground surrounded by branches.

Onlookers and paramedics were unable to save her because she died instantly from "non-survivable head injuries", West London Coroner's Court heard.

Wilson lived in Hanwell, west London and worked for a firm in nearby Southall.

An autopsy found the cause of her death to be multiple injuries.

The tragic incident, which took place as gusts of up to 50kmh swept the capital, was being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The tree was next to a footpath that leads to the Orangery restaurant in the botanic gardens.

Metropolitan Police inspector Simon Young was the first officer on the scene on Sunday afternoon.

Paramedics were trying in vain to resuscitate Wilson and she was pronounced dead at 2.51pm.

He told the inquest how statements were taken from Wilson's friends Tessa and Sean Britton.

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He said: "They stated they were walking along a path and heard a loud crack believing it was thunder or something similar to that.

"They looked up and saw the tree branch descending.

"They then ran and then looked back around and the lady was on the floor in an uncomfortable position, to say the least.
 
"There were lots of branches all around her."

Police have contacted Wilson's mother, who lived in Auckland and her father in Australia.

A maternal uncle who lived in the UK was helping to organise the repatriation of her body to New Zealand.

No mention was made at the inquest of whether the gales in the area at the time played a part in the accident.

Witness Gary Baker, 51, had previously told how he heard what sounded like "shotgun fire" as the branch fell.

He said: "I looked and could see what remained of the branch.

"I didn't see it hit the woman but it was quite clear she was badly hurt.

"The branch was extremely large. It was 12 inches [30cm] thick at least. It was near her but not on top of her.

"She looked in a bad way. She was lying face down. There was blood coming out of her mouth and I couldn't find a pulse.

"I got her in the recovery position and another man started giving her CPR.

"The ambulance control centre was giving us instructions over the phone.

"We kept going for a very long time. One of the Kew staff turned up with a defibrillator and tried to restart her heart.

"It felt like forever before the air ambulance arrived but once the paramedics were there they did everything they could to save her.

"It was a massive shock."

The gardens were closed on Monday but re-opened to the public today.

West London Coroner Alison Thompson adjourned the inquest without fixing the date of the next hearing.

- Stuff

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