Status: 25/09/2023, 17:19 p.m.
By: Felix Herz
After the fatal tree fall on a playground, the responsible inspector was acquitted. The court ruled that he could not have detected the fungal infestation.
Augsburg – The Augsburg District Court was recently confronted with a difficult question. Is a tree inspector complicit in the death of a toddler? In 2021, a maple tree fell, resulting in the death of a little girl, among other things. The question: Should the responsible tree inspector have seen the fungal infestation that caused the toppling? Today, the court gave an answer.
Tree inspector acquitted: "It was a terrible accident, but you are not to blame"
The tree inspector responsible for the maple tree was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter after the tragic death of a toddler in a playground by a falling tree. The Augsburg District Court ruled on Monday that the municipal employee could not have foreseen the tree fall caused by a fungal infection.
After a tragic accident in July 2021 in which a toddler was killed by a falling tree, the responsible tree inspector had to go to court. There he has now been acquitted. © picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Puchner
In July 2021, the 23-meter-high maple tree toppled over the playground. He hit a swing where a mother was playing with her 20-month-old daughter. Both suffered serious injuries. The girl later succumbed to her injuries at the University Hospital of Augsburg. An older daughter of the woman, who was playing a little further away, was physically unharmed.
"It was a terrible, tragic accident, but you are not to blame," said Judge Alexandra Lehner in the verdict on the accused gardener. The man had last examined the clearly crooked tree 14 months before the accident. He had not noticed the fungus and the associated internal rot of the tree that led to the fall.
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Tree inspector severely affected: Experts not quite agree on responsibility
The inspector has been severely affected since the accident, according to his lawyer. Since then, the 58-year-old has been unable to work and is undergoing psychotherapeutic treatment.
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At the trial, three tree experts testified. They came to different assessments of the inspector's responsibility. An expert criticized the defendant for the fact that he should have ordered a more in-depth technical examination of the maple. This is to ensure the safety of the tree, even if it would not have been able to detect the so-called smut crust fungus itself. There were indications such as conspicuous rooting.
The other two experts disagreed. The routine inspection carried out by the tree inspector was sufficient and in accordance with the guidelines. "I wouldn't have examined it any further," said one of the experts about the tree, which had appeared healthy at the last check.
Defense lawyers and prosecutors demand acquittal – verdict immediately final
One assessor explained that an inspector always carries out a risk assessment. But there is always a residual risk that an accident could happen. He added that otherwise cities would have to spend a lot of effort examining thousands of trees. The municipalities do not have enough staff for this. Otherwise, large parts of the tree population would have to be felled, according to the expert.
Ultimately, both the defense attorney and the prosecutor demanded an acquittal for the 58-year-old. The verdict became final immediately.
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This article was edited with the help of machines and carefully checked by editor Felix Herz before publication.