A family was struggling to comprehend what happened after a 40-foot-tall eucalyptus tree knocked over by Santa Ana winds landed on a woman's car in Orange County, killing her Monday.
"I saw her leave her house and say 'good morning, have a nice day,'" Danny McCabe, her neighbor, said. "I didn't even get to my house and heard the tree snap, and I turned around saw it fall."
Dennet Bermas, 34, was leaving for work in the 14000 block of Red Hill Avenue in Tustin at 9:15 a.m. when the tree "split in half" and landed on her car.
She was unable to get out, and died at the scene, the Orange County Fire Authority confirmed.
Norma Milo said it didn't make sense. Her nephew called and said his wife had been killed by a falling tree.
"I don't understand what happened. When he told me his wife passed away I felt...shocked," she said.
Neighbors said Bermas had just pulled out of the carport and was turning her car to go to work. She was a nurse at an assisted living facility.
"And somebody else said, 'there's somebody in there,' and started yelling, 'lady, are you all right? Ma'am ma'am?' He reached for her pulse and didn't feel anything," McCabe said.
Firefighters had to cut away branches to remove her from the car. In spite of its massive size, no other cars were damaged, and no others were hurt.
"Everybody says you always do what you want to do because you never know when your last day is. I know people take that for granted. I know I have," witness Ashley Chavez said.
Residents at the Waterstone Garden Apartments say this is the second eucalyptus to topple in three years. They say a tree fell over and onto the same carport, damaging the roof.
This time the carport and a laundry room were red-tagged. City officials decided the mangled mess will have to be cleaned up later when the harsh Santa Ana winds subside.
Residents said Bermas was nice and friendly, and how even Monday morning she waved and said hello to others before she got into her car.
The accident was reported as meteorologists advised some of the strongest Santa Ana winds in years were expected to sweep through Southern California Monday with gusts topping out at about 70 mph in mountain areas.
The winds were to combine with dry air to raise the threat of wildfires, prompting a red flag warning for most of Los Angeles County.
In Orange County -- including mountain areas below 6,000 feet, the Cleveland National Forest and in valley areas -- winds of 20-40 mph with 60 mph gusts are expected, gusting to 80 mph in some areas amid 5-10 percent humidity. The red flag warning in Orange County will last from 3 a.m. Monday until 8 p.m. Tuesday.