Three people were hospitalized after a 7,000 pound tree branch fell on the Tin Roof Bistro By Sweet Treats food truck Tuesday afternoon, shortly after a busy lunch hour serving Salem-Keizer School District bus drivers attending a training at Broadway Commons.
Two people were trapped inside the food truck after the limb smashed several vehicles around 1:20 p.m., A third person outside the truck was also injured, according to Angela Hedrick, spokeswoman for the Salem Police Department.
One of the people injured was a school district employee, according to district spokesman Aaron Harada.
The food truck was parked in the gravel parking lot at the intersection of Northeast Gaines Street and Northeast 5th Street, owned by the Salem Alliance Church. The tree was at the edge of the lot, on church property.
Linda Myers, executive pastor at the church, said that they have been in touch with those who were injured, and two were released from the hospital but another stayed overnight due to serious injuries.
“Our primary concern at this point is just thoughts and prayers for the families as they heal, and we’re praying for a full recovery,” she said. “We don’t have all those details, but trying to stay connected and make sure that they’re supported and have what they need.”
The heavy branch damaged the food truck and at least three cars, according to pictures Sophie Guenther took the day of the incident and shared with Salem Reporter.
Guenther, like many district employees, had just finished up a busy lunch hour that brought a long line to the truck. Her 2019 Dodge Challenger was parked nearby. Lunch ended, and the line largely cleared as the employees returned to their lessons.
“Another co-worker came in, a little bit late, and he goes, ‘Did you hear what happened?’ and I go ‘No,’ and he goes, ‘A tree fell,’” she said. “The whole 45 minute class, I was sitting there in panic wanting to go outside and check out my car.”
Her vehicle ultimately saw some comparatively minor dents, with neighboring cars having their hoods buckled under the weight of the branch.
The 35-foot branch came from an Oregon white oak, according to Jannai Cornett at R&R Tree Service, which responded to the incident to remove the remnants of the branch.
Tin Roof Bistro By Sweet Treats was an original member of The Yard Food Park on State Street that opened in 2018, starting as a dessert-only cart before adding an Italian menu in 2022, according to an Aug. 28 Facebook post from the business.
The Monday post announced the introduction of the Mobile Tin Roof Bistro, which according to photos at the scene appears to be the same vehicle crushed by the branch the next day.
R&R cleaned up the broken stems on the ground and the broken edges where the large stem and a smaller one had snapped off. The crew noted decay on the internal part of the stem that was exposed after the break, Cornett said.
Cornett said their certified arborist, Tim Jones, suspects it was a “sudden limb drop” which occurs during hot, dry conditions.
“We did have an extended hot and dry season along with inadequate moisture. This, in addition to noted internal spots of decay, is what he believes lead to the limb failure. We will be providing a tree risk assessment report on the remaining standing portion of the tree in the near future to the property owners,” she said in an email to Salem Reporter.
The Salem Alliance Church’s Royal Order of the Red Suspenders, which donates precut wood to families in the region during winter, joined them to help with cleanup Wednesday morning.
The Red Suspenders were loading up the last pieces into a trailer by 1 p.m. on Wednesday, leaving caution tape and a large pile of wood dust behind.
Myers thanked R&R for their work, which she said helped mitigate the situation and get vehicles out. She said they will continue to do safety inspections on the tree.
Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.
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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.