Flowers left on the scene of a tragic accident are dwarfed by the trunk of the massive tree that took a 64-year-old man's life.
Police say Albert Carl Roeth III was killed in the accident Tuesday night in the 9900 block of Georgetown Pike when a giant, dead tree collapsed onto the Mercedes he was driving.
The tree that fell and ultimately killed Roeth had lived along the busy street for more than a century and a half; however, experts say the tree had been dead for quite some time due to root rot. A county tree specialist also attributes the fall to how it had been trimmed away from power lines.
"In this particular case, that's the same direction the tree fell," Michael Knapp, the county's Director of Land Development Services, said.
Witness John Ertter said, "The branches were turning in. It was clear the tree was dead."
Anne Tremaine heard the tree snap and slam to the ground around 6:45 p.m. She says she ran around to the driver's side only to make a heartbreaking discovery.
"The tree was on his head," Tremaine said. "All you could see was the neck, his shoulders and his pink shirt."
Roeth was the only person inside the vehicle, police said. Fairfax County officials say that four people have been killed by falling trees in the past month alone, and according to arborist Jack Goehring, that was the total number of people killed in that way over the past 20 years.
Fairfax County fire crews used a crane to lift the massive tree, which measured almost six feet in diameter, out of the roadway. That wasn't the only work that was done, either. VDOT and county crews took down another tree right next to the one that fell as a precaution.
In the meantime, the shock of Roeth's death is resonating in Great Falls, an area that's lush with leafy, giant trees like the one that fell. Some even consider the narrow, tree-lined streets a death trap.
"They tend not to do anything about problems until someone dies, and then still it takes a while," Great Falls resident Michael Selig said.
This is the fourth tree-related death in Fairfax County in as many weeks.
Fairfax County has begun working with the Virginia Department of Transportation to identify more aging trees that could fall, particularly those trimmed unevenly.