Great escape from family tree

PUBLISHED: 11:53 06 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:53 25 August 2010

DEVASTATION: The Ogunkola family home was almost crushed.

DEVASTATION: The Ogunkola family home was almost crushed.

A FATHER and his family had a great escape when a massive 3ft-thick poplar tree fell on their house.

A FATHER and his family had a "great escape" when a massive 3ft-thick poplar tree fell on their house.

After hearing a huge bang, Emmanuel Ogunkola of Penhill Road, Sidcup, had the shock of his life when he pulled back a living room curtain to see branches up against the window.

His two children, James, 12 and Naomi 8, were doing their homework at the dining table at 1pm on Bank Holiday Monday.

Grabbing them, he ran into the back garden and rang emergency services on his mobile phone.

Parked outside, his crushed Mercedes car was buried under a mass of branches, with the tree top resting on the family's home. Only 20 minutes earlier his wife, Esther, had driven off the driveway in her Suzuki car.

Bexley Police had to manage traffic around the tree, which had partially blocked Penhill Road, until 5.30pm when it was cleared.

Mr Ogunkola said: "We feel extremely lucky, it is a great escape. Normally on a bank holiday, I would have been outside washing the car.

"But my children had a lot of homework to do so I was inside helping them with that.

"It's pure chance that my wife was not outside when it fell."

He said the tree landed across the entrance to Riverside Walk, a popular access route for dog walkers going to Bexley Park Wood.

The 45-year-old account assistant said: "If anyone had been underneath we wouldn't be talking about a lucky escape. I'm just glad it didn't happen at night time, it was scary enough in daylight. The house held up, it absorbed the impact, although there is damage to the roof. You can see mud from the tree on the bedroom window, that's how lucky we are."

He said wind conditions at the time were blustery but not strong enough to blow over a healthy tree. In a freak coincidence at 3.45am that morning, he was woken by the bang of a car colliding with another large tree next to the one that fell.

The Renault Clio was found on its side by Bexley Police. The driver, a 19-year-old man from Bexley, was arrested and charged with drink driving. He is due to appear at Bexley Magistrates' Court next Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Bexley council, which manages Riverside Walk, said "severe" weather could have been a contributory factor.

She added: "The council responded quickly and coordinated the response that included tree surgeons to cut up the fallen tree, a structural engineer to survey the bridge and a building surveyor to help make temporary repairs to the house."

She said the tree, along with others in the park, were surveyed in December 2009 and that no significant problems were found.

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