By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Police Officer Forrest Benner narrowly escaped serious injury on May 10 after a large tree fell and crushed the rear portion his police cruiser on Front Street between Elm and Blacklick streets.
An unusual fast moving storm with winds of up to 60 to 70 mph hour uprooted the approximately 40 foot tree and sent it falling into the street just as Benner was driving by while on a police run.
“I saw the tree start to fall and I hit the throttle,” said Benner. “I’ve never seen anything like this happen in my lifetime.”
Benner said the only injury he suffered was a bump on the head. His quick action in accelerating his police cruiser saved him from possibly more serious injury because, if he had not, the tree might have crushed the driver’s section of his vehicle rather than the rear portion.
Surveying his crushed cruiser, Benner said, “That tree will make some good firewood.”
The fallen tree also struck electric wires and pulled an electric meter from a nearby house. Witnesses said when the tree struck the electric wires sparks flew and a small flame temporarily could be seen. AEP crews worked to repair the electric lines. The Groveport Public Works Department quickly arrived on the scene and cleared the road of the fallen tree and its debris.
“Officer Benner only received a minor bump on his head when the tree hit his cruiser,” said Groveport Police Captain Kurt Blevins. “He was checked by medic 181 on the scene and was determined to be OK. He had to take extra care extricating himself from the cruiser as well because of the downed power lines. Sgt. Adams did an exceptional job contacting the Groveport city crews and AEP to coordinate the clean up efforts. Sgt. Adams also was able to salvage some of the equipment, such as radios from the demolished cruiser once the tree was lifted off the cruiser. We are all very thankful that Officer Benner is okay.”
“Thank God he (Benner) is alright,” added Mayor Lance Westcamp.
Councilman wants old, large trees on Front Street examined
In light of the accident, Groveport City Councilman Shawn Cleary said he was concerned about more potential damage from the large, old trees on Front Street.
“We need to have a professional come look at some of the other trees on Front Street, especially three of them near where this tree fell,” said Cleary. “Some of these old, big trees look tired. If we have to take them out we can replace them.”
Groveport City Administrator B.J. King suggested the city could hire an arborist to examine the condition and health of the large, old trees on Front Street and offer recommendations about them.