Arborist gives evidence after tree kills 16-year-old

An inquest has begun into the death of a 16-year-old girl who was killed by a falling oak branch in Devon.

Grace Turner was a passenger in a car which was crushed by a 20 foot (6m) long piece of oak which weighed more than a tonne.

Devon County Council engineers told the inquest they had identified a group of overhanging oak trees on the A358 between Totnes and Dartington as a potential hazard two years earlier, but had failed to inform the landowner.

One theory is that the branch, which fell from a 90 foot (27.5m) oak tree, may have been affected by summer branch drop, which causes limbs to fall from otherwise normal oak trees.

Arborist Ashley Butler, who surveyed the tree in 2004, told the hearing he did not recommend the immediate felling of the tree but had suggested further investigations including a tomography.

Butler added that he had recommended the felling of five or six other trees in the same survey, but the oak had not been identified as high risk, despite showing signs of a fungal infection.

According to a report in the Telegraph, landowner Anthony Langham said he was not aware of the 2004 survey of the trees until after the accident when he had the oak felled by a tree surgeon.

The inquest continues.

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