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Montclair firefighters respond to a downed tree on Bellevue Avenue on Wednesday. The tree struck several cars and a restaurant, and sent a woman to the hospital. COURTESY KATHLEEN FITZGERALD

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

A 63-year-old woman was taken to the hospital with injuries after a massive tree fell on her car while she was inside it Wednesday evening, May 17.

Montclair Police Lt. David O’Dowd said on Thursday, May 18 that a tree on Bellevue Avenue toppled over, striking five cars and causing damage to Tinga restaurant, 215 Bellevue Ave.

O’Dowd said that by the time police arrived, the Montclair Fire Department had extracted the woman from the car. She complained of head, neck and shoulder pain, and was taken to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson for treatment.

There were no other reports of injuries, either to pedestrians or people inside the restaurant, and O’Dowd said that none of the other damaged vehicles were occupied.

The woman’s vehicle was severely damaged; the front windshield was shattered, the hood and rood were caved in, the driver’s side was dented and all of the tires were deflated, O’Dowd said. The other four vehicles sustained damage ranging from mild to severe.

Tinga sustained damage to the awning, the outdoor umbrellas, tables and chairs, as well as the lighting at the top of the building’s facade.

“Everyone’s fine, the windows are fine,” Angel Abrego, the restaurant’s manager, said on Friday, May 19. The restaurant had been moderately busy at the time, with four or five inside tables occupied.

There had been a woman with three small children sitting at one of the outside tables; they left about seven minutes before the tree came down, Abrego said. “She was so lucky.”

The restaurant was able to start operating again an hour later, but patrons were asked to come through the back entrance since the front was completely blocked off.

O’Dowd said the shade tree commission and the township arborist are investigating.

Katya Wowk, the township communications director, said on May 18 that Township Arborist Steve Schuckman and Shade Tree Foreman Pat Sexton examined the tree, but did not find anything that might have caused it to fall. “There was no disease or decay, and no reported concerns about the tree. They also checked surrounding trees for issues and found none.”

The Montclair Ambulance Unit also responded to the incident.

PSE&G crews were called in when it was found that the tree had dislodged a gas curb box, but a check of the scene that evening did not find any gas leaks.

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