Ghafoorian — a commanding man who made his fortune as an architect — ultimately cut down the trees and several others. His sense that the neighborhood canopies near Woodley Park posed a hazard was tragically prescient.
He was killed Friday night after a tree near his house toppled, crashing power lines on top of his Maserati, which exploded into flames. As he ran from his house into the dark with a fire extinguisher, he didn’t see a live power line on the ground. He stepped on it.
Ghafoorian was one of five people killed in the Washington region as violent winds ripped through the area, uprooting thousands of trees and turning them into lethal missiles as they smashed into homes and cars. At least 21 more lives have been claimed in Virginia, Maryland and the District as a result of the storms and accompanying heat wave.
Ghafoorian’s wife, Shiva, was injured as she tried to help her husband. She is hospitalized, but her injuries do not appear to be life-threatening, her family said.
“It’s a sad coincidence my father died by a tree accident,” said his son, Reza Ghafoorian, describing the neighborhood tree battle as he stepped around broken glass and the burned car in front of his father’s sprawling home.
The tragedy has another odd wrinkle: Mohammad Ghafoorian’s father was killed in Iran in a freak gas explosion when he was the same age, 67.
To those who knew Mohammad Ghafoorian, he seemed larger than life.
“Everyone who ever met him thought of him as a giant, a very big personality,” Reza Ghafoorian said. “He was very loud, he was very big. He was like a godfather to a lot of people.”
A successful architect and businessman, he would give love advice, business advice, political advice and often money to a parade of people he knew, his son said.
“They’d come to him and sit on this couch, and he’d listen and get into their lives,” Reza Ghafoorian said. “Then he’d lock them in and make them do what he thought was right.”
Ghafoorian said his father was as generous as he was wealthy. His phone has been ringing nonstop since Saturday with people sobbing and telling him tales about his father’s generosity.
“He’d say to me, ‘God has chosen to give me money so I can help other people,’ ” he said.
But his father never backed down from an argument, he said. He got into several legal battles with neighbors, including over the trees and the construction of his driveway.
Mohammad Ghafoorian was prosperous in Iran and brought his wife and two children to California in 1989 because he thought there were better opportunities in the United States. None of them spoke English at the time.
Image was important to him. He forced his son to wear dress clothes to high school every day in steamy Southern California while classmates wore surfer T-shirts and flip-flops.