Sarah Nementz-Itobi (and her older children) were shocked to learn that a huge, distressed tree on VDOT's right-of-way fell Tuesday evening in Great Falls, killing a passing motorist.
The Itobi family was shocked because on the day before Thanksgiving, the same thing happened to their husband and father: 38-year-old Demola Itobi. A large tree came crashing down into the windshield of the system engineer's car as he was driving on Harper's Ferry Road just inside Loudoun County.
VDOT says the agency cannot afford to inspect every tree along state roadways.
"We have millions and millions of trees, just in northern Virginia alone," explained VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris. "Clearly it would be an overwhelming job to inspect each and every tree."
Joan Morris says VDOT crews do report distressed trees when they see them, but they are also monitoring pavement, guardrails, signals and lighting, and they just can't look at every single tree.
Mrs. Itobi says the tree that crashed into her husband's car caused a prolonged, painful death.
"He was in great deal of pain and begging for pain medication," remembered Mrs. Itobi. "And because his vital [signs] weren't stable, they wouldn't give him pain medication. So, I witnessed the whole thing. I had Sheridan with me, she was just three months old at the time."
Mrs. Itobi says she doesn't want any more deaths along Virginia roadways, and she has specific suggestions for the Transportation Department: "You have prison workers out collecting trash. Train them to assess whether a tree is dead or not. Put those people to work in a better way other than just picking up trash along the side of the road. And, yes, there are thousands and millions of trees along roadways. Then, if that's the case, then, you know, when you're building a roadway, clear out the trees."
VDOT could not immediately confirm the tree that killed Demola Itobi stood in the right-of-way of Harper's Ferry Road. But Joan Morris says Mrs. Itobi's suggestions will be considered, and VDOT invites ideas from anyone else.
Morris also repeated what she told reporters on Wednesday: if a motorist sees a distressed tree that might be a danger, call VDOT, and a state road crew will be sent to check on the situation.
Motorists may call VDOT 24 hours a day at 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623).