Tree fall survivor: 'It sounded like a building was going to fall down'

PORTLAND, Ore. - Sabrina Van Riette could have chosen any route to the grocery store, but last Wednesday she walked up Southwest Jefferson at the corner of Park Avenue when a nearly 75-foot tree fell on her, breaking her collarbone.

She heard the crack of the roughly 100-year-old elm long before she saw it. Van Riette is blind in her right and the tree was on her right side. She returned to the scene of the incident Monday.

"When I came here, I heard a sound, and I thought, 'What was that?' It sounded like a building was going to fall down. I took a step and wanted to look, I couldn't even do that and that's when the tree fell."

She was underneath, caught between branches, but she couldn't see that the giant tree had fallen; instead, she thought it was just a branch until she saw the news.

It was a surreal experience that's left her with a four-inch scar after surgery.

She's feeling lucky to be alive.

"A miracle, God bless. God was with me," she said.

The tree fell during all the rain and snow that hit the region last week. Arborists say the roots had been attacked by fungus and were rotten. Several branches smashed through several stained-glass windows at the St. James Lutheran Church.

Van Riette still can't remember all of the details of the incident and is trying to piece it all together. She said there's no doubt that each time she walks by the corner it'll help her remember what happened.