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Vancouver woman survives critical injuries after tree falls on her during B.C. windstorm

Vancouver woman manages to survive being knocked down by falling tree
A massive tree came crashing down on her during Friday's windstorm, pinning a woman while jogging. As Jill Bennett reports, if it hadn't been for her alert neighbours, her rescue might have had a very different ending.

A woman is already out of hospital despite suffering serious injuries after a tree fell on her in a Vancouver neighbourhood during Friday’s powerful windstorm.

Vancouver Fire Chief Darrell Reid posted the news on social media Saturday, saying the woman was found unconscious under the tree.

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Asst. Chief Trevor Connelly told Global News that firefighters were called to the 4000 block of West 13th Avenue in Point Grey around 2 p.m.

The woman, Jacqueline Fefer, said she was jogging close to her home, choosing to head to the beach instead of the forest where she normally runs.

“I heard a crack, and I look up, and this black wall just comes down on me, pins me down — it was crushing me,” she said, describing the plywood fencing the tree pushed onto her.

“All I could do was yell maybe half a dozen times, ‘help, help, help.’ And then finally I was like, I can’t breathe, and I passed out. And I was told what happened afterwards.”

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Firefighters said the tree, which the Vancouver Park Board said was 70 to 80 feet tall, broke above ground and crushed the plywood fence while narrowly avoiding the house behind it.

Connelly said the woman was not visible to crews at all. They only knew to look for her because someone saw the incident happen, although it was initially reported as a child under a tree.

Firefighters and a neighbour used chainsaws to break down the tree and rescue the woman from under the plywood.

That neighbour, Dale Pugh, said he heard Fefer’s cries for help after checking out the felled tree.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Power restored to nearly all customers affected by B.C. windstorm

“I wandered down to have a look at it, and as I got there I realized someone was screaming for help under the plywood,” he said. “You could not see where she was. It was a bad situation.”

Pugh said firefighters arrived quickly, and helped him cut limb after limb off the tree to help release the weight off Fefer.

She was then taken to Vancouver General Hospital by ambulance in critical condition. Fefer said she suffered broken ribs, a contusion on her heart, and cuts and bruises.

Fefer was discharged Saturday morning, and was able to return to where the incident happened.

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“When we saw the tree, I was like, ‘How did I live through this? How am I not dead?'” she said.

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Windstorm pounds Metro Vancouver
Windstorm pounds Metro Vancouver

Later Saturday, Fefer visited Pugh at his home to thank him for saving her life.

“How on earth did you hear me?” Fefer asked while the two hugged.

“You just kept yelling out,” Pugh said. “I’m so glad you’re OK.”

The Vancouver Park Board said they were investigating the incident along with the dozens of other trees that were felled by the winds Friday.

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A spokesperson said the tree did not show signs of rot or anything else that may have made it easier for the tree to fall.

Vancouver saw wind gusts hit a peak of 78 km/h Friday during the windstorm, with sustained winds between 40 and 60 km/h for eight straight hours.

READ MORE: B.C. windstorm leads to power outages, ferry and transit cancellations

The winds knocked down several other trees in the Metro Vancouver area. At one point, a tree fully blocked off access to SkyTrains on the Expo Line, forcing riders to walk on the line itself to the next available station.

It’s not believed any homes were damaged by the trees, which blocked roads and affected traffic. No other injuries have been reported.

More than 21,000 customers throughout the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast were without electricity at the peak of the storm, BC Hydro reported.

Blustery winds hit Vancouver’s English Bay
Blustery winds hit Vancouver’s English Bay

By Saturday morning, over 400 customers were still without power in some parts of Metro Vancouver, including Richmond, Delta and Surrey.

More than 40,000 other customers lost power at one point in the B.C. Interior. Just under 2,000 customers remained in the dark Saturday morning — mostly in the Thompson/Shuswap regions, which saw peak winds of 91 km/h in Kamloops.

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The winds also led to ferry cancellations and the closure of some public parks, including Vancouver’s Stanley Park.