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Shock and dismay lingers over Bronx community following death of woman by falling tree

Donna Douglas killed after tree falls into pool in the Bronx
Donna Douglas killed after tree falls into pool in the Bronx 02:38

NEW YORK -- There was shock and grief in the Bronx on Tuesday, one day after a tree fell and killed a woman in a swimming pool.

Witnesses said 59-year-old Donna Douglas never had a chance and was killed immediately.

CBS2's Tony Aiello has more on the accident in Riverdale and the woman who died.

It was a place to enjoy spectacular views of the Hudson River, to exercise and to socialize. But the fatal accident at the pool will long haunt residents of River Terrace.

"Casts a pall over the building, and I really don't want to talk about it, actually," resident Sandra Roberts said.

The massive tree fell from the adjoining property, crashed through a fence and into the River Terrace pool, crushing Douglas, a Maryland native who worked as a client account coordinator at the elite law firm Davis Polk.

Aiello spoke with her brother, Steven Douglas, by phone.

"It doesn't make any sense. Your sister just got crushed by a tree and she's dead, laying in a pool," Steven Douglas said. "I'm just like off the hook, you know what I mean?"

The building superintendent said his daughter was lifeguarding when the tree fell just after 1:30 p.m. on Monday.

"She called 911. I run, takes me about 30 seconds to go. I don't think twice. I jump in the pool. I just saw her feet," Alex Syku said.

"When he got her out, I was actually coming down to help, and she was dead instantly," resident Michael Gallo said.

The superintendent told Aiello the pool would normally stay open through Labor Day weekend, but not this year. The season is over.

Douglas had been swimming with a 72-year-old neighbor, who was struck by a tree branch, but survived.

"She's OK now, but she has a scar under her eye and a lump on her head. It's a very traumatic experience. They were swimming maybe two feet apart from each other. At the end of the day someone's going home and someone's not," Gallo said.

The building's superintendent told Aiello the tree looked healthy and it's not clear why it fell. The Department of Buildings ordered the pool deck to be closed while the tree is removed and repairs are made.

Steven Douglas said his sister loved life in New York City, loved to travel, and loved a man named Gabe Gonzalez, her partner of many years.

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