‘I was in shock’ friends of teen killed by falling tree concerned over park safety

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EDMONDS, Wash. – Family and friends are grieving the loss of 17-year-old Diana Olidinchuk who died in after a tree fell on her in one of their local parks. It has some concerned about the safety of the trees in Meadowdale Beach Park where a makeshift memorial for the teen is at the hike’s entrance.

“I was at work yesterday and my friend called me and I was in shock,” said Angelina Plutenko. She came to the memorial with her sister Evelina the day after she learned about her friend.

“I was in shock for the whole day.”

Angelina said she and her sister often come to the park for hikes, it’s a local favorite for teens. They described Diana Olidinchuk as light in their tightknit Russian community.

“Her personality, her smile, her jokes,” said Angelina, as the things she would miss about her friend. “She would make everything bright.”

Evelina Plutenko said it’s hard to know that something so horrible could happen in what seemed like such a safe place.

“It makes me feel like [I don’t want to] come here again,” she said.

On Friday, winds were high in Edmonds, and the ground was saturated, much like the rest of the Puget Sound region.

“It sets trees up for failure,” said Seattle based arborist, John Zehren.

He said forests can get dangerous with weather conditions like that. “I wouldn’t go walking through a park on a wind storm or a snow storm, there’s just too many things that could break,” he said.

Zehren said in many parks and forests, the danger isn’t always visable. It can be far off the trail, but still put you in harm’s way.

“A tree right next to you, sure you see that,” he said. “But you have to realize that there’s a tree that’s a 110 feet tall that’s 90 feet into the forest; what is that going to do when it falls over?”

Zehren said much of his job is spent looking out for weak links. If a tree is missing bark and has fungus growths, it can be a sign the structure is compromised.

“You may want to have someone look at it right away just to determine how dangerous it is,” he said.

Deciduous trees like cottonwoods will lean with the sun, he said, for those trees, it’s normal. If you see an evergreen leaning, that’s not normal. Zehren said it’s important to look at the top of the tree. If it’s already corrected itself and is perpendicular to the ground that shows the tree is strongly rooted. But, if the tree was straight and now seems to be at an angle, be concerned.

“If your tree was straight before and all of a sudden has a slight lean to it, call somebody,” he said.

Evelina and Angelina said they aren’t going into the park for now, it’s no longer the safe place they knew. Now, they said, they’re focused on staying strong for their friend and her family.

“I don’t think she wants to see people cry,” said Evelina Plutenko, about Diana. “She’s just not that kind of person.”

The family told Q13 News they are planning a memorial service for friends and relatives on Wednesday night at their Mukilteo church.