Ten people were injured Monday when a giant tree was uprooted from the ground and fell on top of a softball field — in the middle of a game.
The incident occurred at the Northgate Junior-Senior High School complex in Bellevue, Pennsylvania, during a game between Williams Middle School and Northgate.
First responders rushed to the scene after the tree fell at around 4:30 p.m.
“We had no idea what the extent of the injuries were or how many people were actually affected by the tree collapse, so the county MCI was activated, regional MCI at Level One was activated, which brings units from all over the county to assist us with transporting patients,” Keith Jankowski, head of the Northwest EMS, told KDKA.
At least four of the 10 injured people were reportedly children. In total, six people were taken to the hospital, according to The Associated Press. However, none of the injuries were believed to be life-threatening.
The weather in the surrounding area had been relatively dry in the days leading up to the incident, but recent rainfall had made the ground wet. This was likely a contributing factor that led to the tree falling.
Caroline Johns, who serves as the superintendent of the Northgate School District, put out a statement explaining what happened in further detail.
“This afternoon, a large tree uprooted and fell during a middle school softball game,” Johns told WPXI. “The game was in progress at the time. The tree fell on the home bench, press box and backstop fencing. There were no players on the home bench at the time the tree fell.”
The incident sparked terror at the scene, as players, coaches and spectators tried to get to safety.
“I just saw the tree and just started screaming, ‘Everybody get out of the way! Run!’” said Kelly Ayers, the mother of three Northgate players.
In the midst of the terror, one man put his own life in jeopardy to save a player.
Seventy-year-old umpire Bill Esau pushed one of Ayers’ daughters out of the way of the tree. To hear the girl’s mother tell it, her daughter owes Esau her life.
“He pushed her out of the way because she was standing right there with him, so she should have been hit also. And the most she got was some scratches and a hurt knee. So I swear he saved her,” Ayers said. “It’s like a miracle. Thank God they got out.”
Esau said he acted out of pure instinct.
“I must have instinctively pushed her,” he said. “It was too fast to recollect. I heard the crash and the crack and the screeching of metal all at the same time.”
Esau suffered a laceration to his head that required a dozen staples, but aside from that, he was fine. In fact, on Tuesday, he was back behind the plate for another game.
“I’ve got a little soreness in my shoulder where one of the branches hit it, but I have complete mobility of all my limbs and my neck is fine,” Esau said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I must have a hard head.”
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