Marcelino Cruz took the same route each evening, driving along Rock Creek Parkway in Northwest Washington on the way home from his job at a tree-service company in Fairfax, his family said.
But Monday afternoon, as he was driving in his 2013 Toyota Corolla, a massive tree fell on the car, crushing the roof and trapping Cruz inside. He was rescued when about 30 bystanders and police lifted the tree and pushed the car out from under it. Cruz remained hospitalized Tuesday with multiple injuries.
The tree, which landed on the windshield, was estimated to be about two to three feet in diameter, according to those who helped move it.
According to his son, Cruz, who is 45 years old, came from El Salvador in the late 1980s and has worked in the tree-service business for nearly 30 years.
“I think it is really strange that he works with trees and this happened to him,” said his 19-year-old son, Cristian. “He’s usually taking down trees, not trees taking him.”
Sean Lewett, an arborist with JL Tree Service in Fairfax, said Cruz had worked for the Virginia company for five or six years, driving a truck and chipping brush as part of a three-man crew.
“I hope and pray he’ll be okay,” Lewett said.
Cruz’s son said doctors told the family his father has several injuries, including a fractured skull and damage to his neck, but is expected to survive. Cristian said his father has been able to follow simple commands from doctors, such as following an instruction to raise his left hand.
On Monday, one man who was riding on his bike nearby and stopped to help said the vehicle was “flattened” and Cruz was inside shouting.
“You could hear him,” said Michael Durr, a bicyclist. “He was not good.”
Cruz’s family said he drives along that part of the parkway every day, heading to work around 5 a.m. and getting home around 7 p.m.
“We’re just praying and hoping for the best,” his son said Tuesday. “We’re a family that regardless of the situation, we always pray. This will definitely test our faith.”
U.S. Park Police said they are continuing to investigate what caused the tree to fall. It is not uncommon for trees to fall in Rock Creek, but officials said they were not aware of other recent cases where a tree struck a person or vehicle.
“There’s trees everywhere that are dangerous,” Lewett of JL Tree Service said. “Everywhere you look.”