Dying tree concerns becoming a deadly concern for drivers - WFSB 3 Connecticut

I-TEAM INVESTIGATION

Dying tree concerns becoming a deadly concern for drivers

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Trees are marked for removal by orange bands from the Dept. of Transportation. (WFSB) Trees are marked for removal by orange bands from the Dept. of Transportation. (WFSB)
BERLIN, CT (WFSB) -

Concerns are rising that dead trees are becoming a deadly hazard to drivers.

This year alone, three people were killed in Connecticut after trees fell on them while they were behind the wheel.

One of the victim's families reached out to the I-Team to shed some light on the problem.

In March, a tree limb shut down traffic on Route 15 in Orange and severely hurt two people in a van.

Another tree fell on a school bus in Avon, killing the driver.

In Columbia, a tree fell on a car with James Marcelynas at the wheel. He died.

The 40-year-old chief flight nurse with Lifestar left behind a wife and two children.

His father, Art Marcelynas, said that while it was a windy day, the tree was the problem. He said it should have been cut down.

"If someone had noticed the tree that killed my son, he’d still be here," Art Marcelynas said.

Art Marcelynas contacted the I-Team because ever since his son's death, he said he sees dead trees that pose a potential threat to drivers all the time.

He said he wanted answers to why they aren't being looked for and cut down.

"This is about an ounce of prevention," he said. "It’s not hard to identify a tree that has woodpeckers damage, no leaves, bark falling off, limbs falling near guard rails. Cut it down. [It's] pretty straight forward."

The I-Team met with Art Marcelynas on the Chamberlain Highway in Berlin where he showed us a tree that had been put on the Department of Transportation list to be chopped after he reported it.

He also told Channel 3 the locations of dangerous trees along New Britain Avenue in Rocky Hill.

Art Marcelynas went a step further and reported the trees to the DOT. He said many have been tagged with an orange marker.

Some have since been cut after the I-Team followed up with a DOT spokesperson.

However, Art Marcelynas said DOT workers should be more vigilant and rely on people to report dying trees.

"Just take a ride along [with] a couple of guys, put a tree warden in the passenger seat [and] stop where you identify it," he said. "Have a work order placed to cut it down."

James Marcelynas' widow is also pursuing legal action.

Her lawyer filed a suit against the DOT and a claim with the Claims Commissioner's Office. She alleges that the DOT is liable for her husband's death because the state failed to take down a rotting tree.

When the I-Team reached out to the DOT, the DOT wouldn't go on camera.

However, it said it's trying to be proactive. It cited work done last month when they hired arborists to cut down nearly 200 trees along Interstate 95 in Old Lyme. Those trees had been infested by gypsy moths.

“The safety of all users of the state-owned roadway network is always the department’s primary concern," a DOT spokesperson said. "We have for years, and even on this very day today, are routinely addressing trees that we believe necessitate removal.”

Rep. Anthony D'Amelio said he's also pushing for more awareness after he had his own close call with a tree in his backyard.

"You know right over my patio, an area which I played with my grandson a day before, the next day this limb hanging over our patio just came crashing down onto our patio," D'Amelio said. "I never even really thought of looking up."

Both D'Amelio and Art Marcelynas are asking people to look up.

D'Amelio said he hopes to start a campaign and plans to bring it to fellow lawmakers during the next legislative session.

"I’m hoping people really take this seriously and just look, look up in your own backyard, look up in your own street," he said. "That’s a great place to start. If you see anything that is rotting and limbs and stuff, you can prevent a tragedy from happening just by making a phone call."

Drivers can find contact information for the DOT here.

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