Dallas runner avoids serious injury after tree falls on vehicle at park

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A runner was sitting behind the wheel of his vehicle when he heard a cracking sound. He had only moments to get out of the way -- and avoid a falling tree.

The City of Dallas estimates about 700 trees were lost in city parks and many more trees severely damaged due to spring and summer storms. The tree that fell on the leg of Alfonso Gonzalez, Jr. and crushed his vehicle, was potentially one of the affected trees.

Fonz, as he's known, is a familiar face among Dallas elite runners. But Saturday morning his racing days could have ended in an instant.

Gonzalez had just finished a 14-mile run with friends, stopping at his car to hydrate at Norbuck Park, sliding into the driver's seat.

"I heard like a crackling, chrrrrrr, it just sounded like crackling louder and louder," Gonzalez said.

He peeked his head out to see a massive Cottonwood falling toward his car.

"It was already halfway coming down and that's when I just flung myself and landed somewhere over here."

A friend and stranger helped pull Gonzalez out from under branches. It's unclear what caused the tree to fall, but the area was hit hard by June storms packing 70 mile-per-hour gusts.

In a July 5 press release, the city called the tree damage in city parks "unprecedented." Crews have worked days, nights and weekends to assess damage and identify hazardous trees.

Arborist Steve Houser says the estimated 60- to 80-year-old Cottonwood had decay, though relatively healthy. But storm damage may be what brought it down.

"It's a potential," Houser said. "Every tree can fail given the right circumstances."

Gonzalez had purchased the now totaled Volkswagen Tiguan about 10 days prior.

But he's more focused on his bruised and banged up leg. It's not broken, but he's not allowed to run for two weeks – doctor's orders.

"I'm very thankful that I'm here. I think if I would have shut the door I think the tree would have broke my back or worse for sure. You know, I could be dead," he said.