Update: Driver Home from Hospital After Tree Falls on Car, Catches Fire

A falling tree caused minor injury, extensive damage and power outages Sunday night.

Update: The driver of the car, Pam Mauer, was released from the hospital Monday morning. She suffered only minor injuries. Patch talked with Mauer; check back Tuesday morning for Mauer's own reaction to the bizarre accident.

Original: A Wayland woman in her late 50s was injured Sunday night when a large tree came crashing down, without warning, taking multiple power lines with it and landing across the front seat of her car as she drove up Woodridge Road.

Wayland Deputy Fire Chief David Houghton said the first call came in at 7:57 p.m., and was followed by multiple 911 calls from bystanders and neighbors reporting that a woman was trapped and her car was on fire.

Houghton said the first firefighters arrived on the scene within four minutes of the initial call and found the circumstances to be exactly what callers had reported.

The tree, which Houghten estimated to be at least 3 feet in diameter, was completely rotted at its base and had fallen onto the woman's four-door Nissan sedan, caving in the roof about 18-20 inches -- basically down to the headrest. The driver's compartment area was on fire.

"When you have wires involved, it is always a very dangerous condition to enter into and you have to do a rapid risk analysis prior to taking action," Houghton said. "There was a quick and calculated review of the power wires and the danger of them having electricity in them."

Firefighters took a "calculated risk" regarding the wires and went to work with fire extinguishers and hoses to put out the fire. The victim, Houghton said, was conscious and communicative the entire time.

Within 16 minutes of the initial call, the driver had been extracted from her car and was headed to Beth Israel Medical Center. Houghton said Wayland's Basic Life Support (BLS) crew was on duty at the time and was supported by an Advanced Life Support (ALS) crew from American Medical Response (AMR).

"She was in great spirits when the ambulance crews brought her in,” Houghton said.

He said the victim's injuries were primarily smoke inhalation-related, though she was taken for a full "head to toe check" given the nature of the accident.

"She was extremely lucky," Houghton said, adding that he has never seen a situation quite like this in his years as a firefighter. "We had just left another call, so we were on the road already. Our response time was very quick. The timing for her couldn’t have been better. We have a great crew on tonight. Everything worked like clockwork.”

The tree knocked out power to about 700 Wayland households and businesses, including Wayland's Fire Station No. 2, the Public Safety Building and Dudley Chateau.

Jim Connelly, an Nstar spokesman, said most customers were restored quickly, but about 100 customers could remain without power for the remainder of the night.

Houghton said Woodridge Road remains closed as crews work to untangle the wires, remove the tree and completely restore power.


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