Approximately 100 year old Norwegian Maple fell out of nowhere. There was no wind, no rain. The tree crashed into a passing jeep. The 40-year-old woman behind the wheel suffered serious head injuries from which she died shortly after. If a district ranger had violated her duty of care, could she and should she have recognized the danger? The Tiergarten district court examined the charge of negligent homicide for three days and finally decided on an acquittal.
In her sentencing on Tuesday, the judge first addressed the 48-year-old widower, who was sitting in court as a joint plaintiff. He was a passenger when the accident occurred in Grunewald on the night of October 28, 2019. Pain and sadness were written all over the man’s face. “As far as I understand his need to find out why his wife had to die,” the judge began.
But if the damage was visible during a tree inspection by the district ranger in early 2019 and was not determined with the certainty required for a conviction, the judge justified an acquittal. You are smarter later. After the fall you could see the severe damage.
The experts had explained in the process that a honey fungus, a fungus, was the main cause of extreme rot. It is said that it decomposed the root wood of the Norway maple tree unusually quickly from the inside. There was also an area debarked and therefore weakened.
The tree had been damaged for years.
The defense attorney said that summer droughts also contributed to the death of the trees. The case tragically demonstrated that “man cannot completely dominate nature.”
The judge said the tree had been damaged for years: “no one was offended.” The defendant, who was new to the station, was on his first round during the tree inspection in January 2019. It should be remembered that the maple was not just one tree but one among many.
The prosecutor had also asked for acquittal. It is not clear how long the honey fungus was active and with what intensity. There are duties of the Berlin forests to control the trees, he said in his plea. “But there will not be 100% security.”
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The criminal proceedings against the district forest ranger were initially suspended, but were resumed at the instigation of the victim’s relatives. Two experts were commissioned to provide expert opinions on whether the danger posed by the damaged maple was recognizable in advance. They came to different conclusions.
The presiding judge finally decided on an unusual start to the process: he invited an on-site visit near the scene of the accident. He wanted to “understand what a ranger has to do, how a tree should be controlled, and what could have gone wrong.”