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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK
'Diseased' tree crushed three
Fallen ash tree
Some of the fungus on the tree dated back 13 years
A city council could face prosecution after an accident in which a diseased tree toppled over and killed three people.

An inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental death on all three victims, who were crushed in their two cars in King's Heath, Birmingham, in December 1999.

The ash tree - which crashed across a busy rush hour road during high winds - was rotten and should have been cut down, the inquest heard.

Kenneth Davis, 56, his 76-year-old mother Ellen Davies and postman Alan Poole, 59, were crushed to death as a result.

The Health and Safety Executive could prosecute the council but said it was "highly unlikely" it would do so.

However the families of those involved say that someone should be held responsible for what happened.

All three people were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident at the junction of Alcester Road South and Howard Road East.

Visible disease

The city council was responsible for maintaining the tree, which was estimated at between 180 and 200 years old.

On Monday, Birmingham Coroner's Court heard that the tree's roots were 90% decayed and infected with different types of fungus.

David Rose, forest pathologist with the Forestry Commission, told the jury that some of the fungus dated back 13 years and that disease would have been visible during inspections.

Fallen ash tree in Birmingham
The families want someone held responsible

He added: "This tree had extensive fungal brackets around its base.

"I identified two different species. One of them causes a severe white rot.

"This fungus is one where, if I see it on a tree, I usually counsel people to carry out a detailed inspection of the tree and be prepared to remove it."

Mr Rose, who specialises in the diagnosis of tree disease, said an examination of the tree showed another type of fungus which indicated it had been infected for some time.

High winds

He added that the ash was in a high-risk area: "My counsel would have been to remove it immediately."

The inquest heard that the tree fell across both carriageways after gusts of wind reached up to 64mph, the highest recorded in the area for five years.

Building contractor Mr Davis, of Florence Road, King's Heath, was taking his mother shopping while Mr Poole was driving out of Birmingham when the tree toppled over.

The tree also demolished a bus shelter and a fence.

Det Insp David Ford, of West Midlands Police, said the force had considered bringing corporate manslaughter or manslaughter charges against the city council.

Council criticised

He told the jury: "It would appear that Birmingham City Council did not have a pro-active response to tree maintenance.

"They would wait for a member of the public to contact them regarding the state of trees on the highway."

But he added that the Crown Prosecution Service had decided in March that there was not a reasonable prospect of bringing a manslaughter charge against the council.

Joy Jones, of the Health and Safety Executive, said that it was "highly unlikely" that they would prosecute the council.

See also:

05 Sep 98 | Europe
Falling tree kills couple in tent
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