On March 21, local news outlet The Almanac reported that Jesus Ivan Cruz-Diaz, a 29-year-old San Jose resident, was killed when a eucalyptus tree on Stanford grounds fell onto his van while he was driving on Alpine Road in Portola Valley near Highway 280.
According to The Almanac, Cruz-Diaz was leaving a job he completed for Able Plumbing, Sewer and Drain when the tree fell on his work van on Alpine Road near the Highway 280 south on-ramp. As rescuers were attempting to remove Cruz-Diaz from the vehicle, several more trees fell and nearly hit their vehicles, the outlet reported. There were no other injuries detailed. Cruz-Diaz was pronounced dead on the scene after respondents were able to remove the branches off his car.
In an interview to The Almanac, Ladera resident Carol Espinosa said that she hoped for a reduction in the chance of death and property damage caused by falling trees but said that it was “not something that is going to stop soon.”
The strong winds responsible for the downed tree began plaguing the Bay Area at the time due to a rare but deadly atmospheric bomb cyclone that killed at least five people and derailed a train. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a bomb cyclone, also known as a bombogenesis by meteorologists, is a “cyclone [that] rapidly intensifies, or strengthens, over a 24 hour period.”
Alpine Road provides residents of Portola Valley with access to Highway 280, an important emergency exit point for residents of the wooded region. According to coverage of the incident by Palo Alto Online, residents of both Portola Valley and Ladera say that they are calling upon Stanford to better manage their trees along Alpine Road to prevent further deaths and damages from occurring.
In an email to The Almanac, Ladera resident Briana Fortnam said that Stanford should evaluate the health of their trees on their property in Alpine Road. “‘As you can see from the photos, the tree that fell this morning was adjacent to the tree that killed Jesus Cruz last week. Stanford was asked to assess the health of these trees when the first tree fell and killed a man last Tuesday. We have not yet heard of any action taken to review the danger posed by these trees,’” she wrote in an email to them.
According to University spokesperson Luisa Rapport on March 30, Stanford has begun removing eucalyptus trees that have been deemed hazardous by a licensed arborist who was hired to perform a review of the trees on Alpine Road and Highway 280.
“We have removed seven standing trees in the area and have also done extensive tree trimming and debris removal. We continue to coordinate our efforts with Santa Clara County, San Mateo County and Woodside Fire Protection District and have been in regular contact with other local officials to share updates and address any community concerns,” Rapport wrote in an email. Tree and debris removal activities will continue until April 15, but may remain ongoing if needed.
On April 9th, friends and family of Cruz-Diaz gathered for a memorial service at the site of his death. Almost $100,000 had been raised by his employer’s GoFundMe to pay for his funeral.
“We are very saddened by the tragic loss of life that happened as a result of the intense storms that impacted the area on March 21,” Rapport wrote.