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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Manoa pine set to come down

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

The city has agreed to cut down a healthy Norfolk pine that is growing near the home of 12-year-old Julia Engle, who is recovering from injuries she suffered when a 100-foot tall tree fell through her bedroom wall in Manoa on March 15.

Julia Engle takes a few steps with assistance from her father Tom, right, and family friend Pete Peterson. Julia was injured on March 15 when a 100-foot Norfolk pine crashed through the roof of her parents' home in Manoa. She came out of a coma earlier this month.

Photo courtesy of Richard Fried

The 80-foot tall Norfolk pine is even closer to her family's home on Beckwith Street than the one that fell, and Julia's mother, Debbie, said she won't go back until that tree is gone.

"We are going to wait a little bit," she said.

Rick Fried, the family's attorney, said the city has agreed to remove the healthy tree through its tree replacement program.

The family has been staying with relatives and will return after the tree is removed later this month, he said.

Meanwhile, a neurosurgeon last Friday replaced a 4-inch piece of Julia's skull that had been removed to help relieve swelling in her brain, Fried said. The bone was fitted back into place and secured with titanium screws, he said.

Julia has taken a few steps with a walker and has been able to spell her name using magnetic letters, her mother said. Julia is regaining control of her facial muscles and her final surgery to reshape her cheek will be done today.

"She definitely has a long way to go, but we are just so pleased she is alive and I can see her beautiful brown eyes and her smile again," Debbie Engle said.

Julia was in intensive care at The Queen's Medical Center until March 31, when she was moved into a regular room. She was injured nearly a month ago, when a diseased Norfolk pine crashed through the roof of her parents' Manoa home as the family slept shortly before 5 a.m. She has come out of a coma but is still unable to talk or walk without assistance.

City spokesman Bill Brennan said city parks crews periodically replace trees on city property and that program has been expedited for this situation.

"To accommodate Ms. Engle's fears, we are going to accelerate the tree replacement program that is scheduled for that area and remove that healthy tree," Brennan said. "I think the tree will be saved and taken to another location because it is healthy."

Brennan could not estimate the cost to remove the tree, but said it recently cost the city about $10,000 to cut down three similar trees on the same street.

"I've been pleading with the city to remove that tree because, frankly, the family, particularly the 10-year-old sister, Christina, are not about to go back to the house," Fried said. "I think there has been some pressure to not take down a healthy tree, but I think in this case to remove one tree like this is not inappropriate because of what has happened. That tree is even closer than the one that fell on the house."

Reach James Gonser at 535-2431 or jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com.