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Man critically injured when tree fell on his passing auto has improved says hospital

Union Leader Correspondent

June 21. 2013 1:11PM
The car of a Sanbornton couple after a tree fell on it Thursday morning, critically injuring the driver. (COURTESY NEW HAMPTON POLICE DEPARTMENT)

NEW HAMPTON – The condition of the 69-year-old Sanbornton man who suffered a critical head injury Thursday when a tree dropped on his car has improved.

A Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center spokesperson said Thomas Ochs’ condition improved from critical on Thursday to satisfactory on Friday morning.

Ochs was driving with his wife along Old Bristol Road when a tree being cut by a man on the side of the road fell on the his passing car at about 10:40 a.m. Thursday morning. He was extricated from the car and flown by helicopter to the Lebanon hospital shortly after.

His wife, Lillian Ochs, was not seriously injured.


Complete text of earlier article continues in full below.

Man cutting tree drops it on car, driver critically injured

NEW HAMPTON – A 69-year-old Sanbornton man who was driving with his wife along Old Bristol Road was in critical condition at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center after a tree being cut by a man on the side of the road fell on the his passing car Thursday morning.

Thomas Ochs was driving with his wife, Lillian, toward New Hampton Village around 10:40 a.m. when a tree fell on the driver's side of their 2009 Toyota Camry resulting in a critical head injury for Mr. Ochs, according to Police Chief Merritt D. Salmon.

As they passed 229 Old Bristol Road, a tree being cut by David Fernandes, 39, of Danbury fell on their car, striking the driver's side door and front hood of the at the level of the rear-view mirror, Salmon said, crushing the driver's side of the car and slightly damaging the passenger side.

The car continued moving for about 100 feet after the tree struck, leaving the road and hitting a rock wall, he said. Police and rescue crews had to stabilize the car, as it was teetering on the wall, and then used heavy equipment to cut through the door and free Thomas Ochs from the car.

He was then taken by ambulance to Palazzi Field in New Hampton, where he was loaded onto a DHART helicopter and flown to the Lebanon hospital.

At 4 p.m. Thursday, the hospital updated police, saying he was in critical condition, Salmon said.

Lillian Ochs was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital with a minor cut to her arm, Salmon said.

"She was pretty shaken up," said Fire Chief Michael Drake.

Salmon said the tree, an ash tree about 12-16 inches wide at its base, was intended by Fernandes to fall in the opposite direction. Fernandes, who owns his own tree-cutting business, was hired by the property's owner to cut some trees, he said.

"What he told me is that he had cut a notch in the tree aiming it to fall in the opposite direction, and as he cut it the upper part of the tree started to dip in the other direction, and it fell that way," Salmon said.

Salmon said the accident is under investigation, and he wasn't sure yet if any charges would be filed against Fernandes.

"I'm not sure yet (about potential charges), I've just made calls to the county attorney, we'll see," he said.

The homeowner who had hired Fernandes to cut the trees, Susan Giroux, said the she was having him cut some dead trees along the side of the road. Remarkably, she was hoping to eliminate the dead trees because they might fall on a passing car, she said.

The tree that fell on the couple was half-dead, she said.

"The top of that tree was dying, and there are several others that I wanted cut because I thought they were dangerous," Giroux said.

Giroux's son, C.J., was applauded by police and firefighters for helping out at the scene. While crews were extricating Thomas Ochs, he brought Lillian Ochs his favorite chair, which she sat in on the road as she was being examined, Giroux said.

"It was just a horrible accident," she said. "I'm so sorry to the family, but it was just an accident."

Fernandes said he thought it was a large branch from the tree that dropped on the car, not the whole tree itself. He said it the tree and its branches was set to drop one way, but went toward the road by accident.

"I don't know what to say, I feel for them," he said. "It was an accident, I didn't have any control. I'm praying for them."

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