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Canada

Family of Port Moody woman killed by fall tree file lawsuit

The family of a Port Moody woman who was killed after a tree fell on her home during a severe windstorm two years ago has filed a lawsuit alleging regional district officials were negligent in dealing with problem trees.

Jill Calder was asleep in her bed on March 10, 2016 when a 35-metre hemlock tree came crashing through the roof of her house on Alpine Place, located in the Mountain Meadows neighbourhood on Heritage Mountain. 

Calder, who was the executive director of a society that provides help to people with mental illness, died of her injuries.

Kenneth Calder and James Calder, her sons, have now filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court naming the Greater Vancouver Water District and an arborist as defendants.

The lawsuit says that the regional district was the registered owner of heavily wooded lands adjacent to the Calder home and that in the years preceding the tragedy, five to six trees failed and fell to the ground.

In one such instance, a limb of a large tree on the lands east of the Calder home broke off and landed on the yard of the home causing damage, says the suit.

The husband of Jill Calder notified the regional district about the prior incident and expressed his concerns about the integrity of the remaining trees adjacent to the home, it says.

The district or an arborist on its behalf cleared the debris from the yard and inspected the remaining trees, but otherwise failed to take any steps to address any of the risks posed by the trees, says the writ.

In 2012 or 2013, the husband notified the district that the hemlock which fell on the home in 2016 displayed signs of declining health and officials came back to check into the matter, says the Calders’ lawsuit.

“On one such occasion, the defendants, or one or more of them, advised the plaintiffs’ father that there was rot in the hemlock and that, if the hemlock fell onto the property, it would be catastrophic.”

The plaintiffs say the tragedy has caused them to suffer psychological injuries, loss of support, loss of homemaking and household assistance and loss of inheritance and income. They’re seeking general and special damages.

No official response has been filed to the lawsuit, which contains allegations that have not been tested in court. The Greater Vancouver Water District is one of four corporate entities that make up the Metro Vancouver regional district.

Metro Vancouver spokesman Don Bradley said that he couldn’t speak to the specific allegations in the lawsuit.

“The death of Jill Calder was an unthinkable tragedy with devastating impacts on her family, friends and the community,” Bradley said in an email Wednesday. “Our thoughts and condolences remain with her loved ones.”

Bradley added that the regional district is committed to protect public health and safety as well as prevent property damage from inherent forest risks and has in “direct response” to the tragedy taken “substantive” action to further reduce forest-related risks on its lands.

The district has undertaken a “comprehensive” review of tree management practices and has approved a tree management policy, risk assessment and mitigation program to ensure they meet or exceed best management practices, he said.

kfraser@postmedia.com

twitter.com/keithrfraser

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