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Family of six nearly crushed by falling tree on 99W

Debris from a tree that nearly crushed a family as they drove on Highway 99W. (Contributed photo)

A family of six was nearly crushed by a falling tree on Highway 99W Saturday afternoon while they were driving back to their Newberg home.

Kassie Kruse was in the passenger seat when she noticed the tree began to fall in front on their SUV.

“We see this tree up here on the right and it's just like slow-motion falling. That image is in my head for the rest of my life,” said Kruse.

Seconds later, it smashed into the front of the Honda Pilot.

“All of the sudden this huge boom, huge, it was so loud. Just completely dead in our tracks, stopped,” said Kruse.

The SUV was totaled. The windshield was shattered. Branches from the tree pierced through the front and into the passenger seat where Kruse was sitting. Incredibly, she escaped with just a bruise on her arm, some cuts from the broken glass, and a large gash in her forehead that required 11 stitches.

“I remember us getting hit, and realizing that I felt like I was bleeding. I had no idea where I was bleeding from. I just turned and looked for the kids, made sure they were OK. Looked at Ian, made sure he was OK. I don't know how we just lived through that; it was a giant tree,” Kruse said.

Kruse’s fiancé, Ian Wild, was driving and was not injured. Neither were the four boys in the back seat. The youngest boy slept through the crash and Kruse says he didn’t wake up until they unbuckled him from the car seat.

“Completely thankful that we were saved from all the other options. I look at the pictures and there were so many other things that could have happened,” said Kruse.

Kruse said she had nightmares the night after the crash; so did one of her sons. She says she has been shaken up since then.

“If I look at the pictures, it makes me emotional. Just thinking about the things that could have happened and realizing how much we have to be thankful for,” she said.

The next day, Kruse and her fiancé went back to the scene and picked up a branch from the tree that fell. She says they will likely hang it somewhere in their home, along with a prayer. It’s something to remind them of what happened and how lucky they are. Kruse added, it’s also just a good story.

Kruse says insurance will likely cover the damage to the car.

When asked what the Oregon Department of Transportation does to prevent something like this from happening along state roads, Don Hamilton, an ODOT spokesperson, said they actively look for trees that are leaning or at risk of falling down. They remove thousands of trees a year, but cannot predict everything.

Earlier this year, they removed more than 3,000 trees along Interstate 84 after the Eagle Creek fire.

Another representative from ODOT, Lou Torres, told KATU that storms early in the year can put extra stress on trees because they still have leaves. He said the leaves can catch the wind like a sail on a sailboat. Torres said they actively look for trees that may fall. In certain storms even healthy trees can fall down.

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