A 28-year-old Minnesota man hiking in California’s Muir Woods with his sister and her boyfriend was struck and killed by a falling redwood in a “tragic” Christmas Eve accident.
Subhradeep Dutta, of the Minneapolis suburb Edina, was visiting the popular national park outside San Francisco on Tuesday and was walking along the trail path when the massive tree fell down, according to a release from the Marin County Sheriff’s Office.
He was discovered “unconscious and lifeless” beneath the tree by emergency services, and was pronounced dead on the scene at 5 p.m. due to “severe traumatic injuries.”
Dutta was with his sister, who was hospitalized, and her boyfriend, who escaped without injury, National Park Service spokesman Charles Strickfaden told KPIX.
Sister Swagata Dutta said Subhradeep was visiting her in the Bay Area for the holidays, and that the group heard the sound of rocks falling just seconds before disaster struck.
“I knew by instinct something was coming down. Me and my brother ran in one direction, and my boyfriend ran in another direction,” she told KNTV. “There was some loose debris that spilled on me. I got out of it and then I yelled at him from the other side.”
She said she noticed “something was very wrong” after she called out for her brother and received no response.
“We just happened to be at the wrong time at the wrong place,” she said.
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Strickfaden, who did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, called the incident a “totally isolated event,” but said the falling tree may have been weakened by recent heavy rain in the area.
“These were visitors exactly where they were allowed to be,” he said. “It just seems to be an unfortunate, tragic event.”
The tree that struck Subhradeep was 200 feet tall and more than four feet in diameter, according to the Associated Press.
Its large size initially made hiker Alex Shepard, who was hiking with his mom when it fell, think it was an earthquake.
“I had never heard a sound like that,” he told KPIX. “We were just finishing our hike when we heard this colossal noise — maybe 250, 300 feet away — and watched a huge redwood fall from the hillside down to the trail below.”
Dutta was a firmware engineer with Seagate Technology, and had received a master’s degree from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2018, according to his LinkedIn profile.