Sean Mace, Navy veteran, was sleeping under a pine tree in the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park when a 16 pound pine cone fell on his head, causing what he and his lawyer claim is ‘irreversible damage’ to his brain.
Pine Cone in Question Dropped from Australian Araucaria Bidwillii
The tree in question is a member of the Araucaria bidwillii which is native to Australia, particularly in the southeast of Queensland. Commonly referred to as the bunya pine, these trees can grow to heights between 115’ and 131’. Falling asleep while reading, Mace contends that the cone dropped on his head and that the U.S. Park Service is at fault because there were no signs posted warning of giant falling cones.
Lawsuit Leveled Against the National Park Service
The cone that allegedly landed on Mace’s head was larger than a pineapple and due to the brain damage that Mace says he suffered, he is suing the United States Department of Interior as well as the historic San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park for damages that he states add up to $5 million USD. The park is managed by the National Park Service, a division of the Department of Interior and it is the National Park Service within the Department of Interior that is actually named in the suit.
Mace’s Attorney Claims the Experience Was Devastating
According to Mace’s attorney, Scott Johnson, the pine cone that landed on Mace’s head was akin to a 16 pound bowling ball. He states that the experience was ‘devastating’ for the Navy vet who was visiting the park during the Navy’s Fleet Week.
The date in question was October 12, 2014 during this celebration of seagoing services within the United States military. As a veteran, Mace claims to have been in town for the celebration. Mace’s lawyer states that his client was “immediately rendered unconscious” and that there was literally blood everywhere.
Mace Taken to San Francisco General Hospital
At the hospital surgeons worked to relieve swelling by removing parts of the skull, according to Mace’s lawsuit. As a result of the injury Mace suffered from memory loss that was short-term but will probably need care that is ongoing for the long-term. This according to his attorney.
The lawsuit also notes that warning signs were posted by the park after the incident and that netting was placed around bunya trees. The Park Service refuses to comment on the lawsuit, according to spokesperson Craig Dalby. The agency will not make comments on litigation that is ongoing.
This is not the first time that bunya cones came under scrutiny of officials. In 2002 officials from a town to the southeast of Melbourne, Warragul, became aware of the potential danger to residents of the town. The town’s mayor then proceeded to warn residents as to the dangers of falling pods. Mayor Diane Blackwood stated that these pods could be potentially lethal to anyone passing under the trees if a cone should fall from such great heights.