Three people escape as tree crushes home

Another massive Oak Tree came crashing down around 11:00 p.m. shortly before midnight this past Friday, June 7. This time, crushing the home of Devine resident Stevo Balderrama who counts himself and relatives who were in the home with him that night “blessed to be alive.”
The Balderrama home is located in the 500 block of Ross, across from the old Independent Grocery Store and right next to Chayito’s Restaurant.
Devine Fire Chief Mike Walker stated, “The owner was sitting on the couch when that tree came down on the roof, caving it in right at the coffee table in front of them. Thankfully they were able to escape without injuries. They are very lucky.”
Stevo’s brother and sister-in-law Maria and Ernest Balderrama from Illinois were visiting when it happened.
Ernest was at the kitchen table working on his computer when it happened, and the rafters and joists fell down all around him, but fortunately the edge of the frame hit the floor first which kept it from crushing him.
Stevo was on the sofa where he had been watching the basketball finals. Both the living room and kitchen walls are the closest to the tree. Sheetrock fell down all around him and on him. Maria was in the bedroom at the time as she had just taken a shower.
“When the tree crashed down it sounded like an explosion,” said Stevo, “and then we couldn’t see anything as the roof was crashing in around us. Ernest had to crawl out through the rafters as his wife was crawling through to help him out. It was crazy as stuff just kept falling. We all thought it was an explosion.”
“It was so loud that the neighbor’s came running, as it sounded like an explosion to them too, heard for several blocks.”
Earlier in the evening Maria had mentioned to Stevo that his stove had a self cleaning mode so they decided to push the button and go to supper. When they returned it still had an hour and a half to finish, so it was still on when the limb fell. Stevo went to watch the game, Ernest decided to work on his computer, and Maria headed to take a shower. “That’s why we all thought it was an explosion at first when it happened, and with the loud noise and the area the limb fell on being the kitchen as well,” said Stevo.
The huge limb knocked down the electric wires too so the electric company came to turn the power off that night.

Stevo’s brother, Red Balderrama, commented, “I got the call sometime before midnight on Friday night that the huge oak limb had fallen on Stevo’s house. I was in Illinois visiting my son who was in the hospital due to a motorcycle accident. The limb fell on the center beams of the home which helped, but it did demolish the kitchen and living rooms, as they are on the side of the house closest to the old Oak Tree. The bedrooms are on the other end of the house. Fortunately they are alive and okay. It had to have been very scary,” said Red, who lives next door. He is going to keep an eye on the big oak in his backyard now and plans to trim it up soon.
The limb that fell was hollow and huge. The oak tree itself is so tall that it towers over both the home and restaurant next door. The hollow was so large it looks like a basketball could fit inside the limb as well as the site of the trunk of the tree where the limb broke off from.
Stevo was actually watching the basketball game when it happened, and even in the face of such a catastrophe he is counting his blessings and in good spirits, still cracking everyone up with his jokes.
A friend joked that Stevo (a local musician also known as the Karaoke King) was playing his bass guitar too loud and that’s what “brought down the house.”
The jokester commented right back, “My sister-in-law had to crawl through the rafters and pull us both out by the hair,” smiling and joking that his older brother is just as bald as he is. “At times like these you have to keep a sense of humor. It was very scary and is a mess, but we are blessed to all be alive……My grandsons are having a great time, as I am camping in their bedroom right now”.
Rains had soaked the age old tree which was full of foliage during the last week. Three inches of rain had fallen three days prior on Tuesday in the downtown area where Balderrama lives.
Local tree serviceman, Daniel Bowyer, estimates that tree to have been close to 200 years old. Rainy weather certainly plays a factor, he explains.
“Trees just soak up that water, and I’ve personally worked on at least five large trees over 100 years old that have fallen since the heavy rains started this September,” Bowyer said. “A log weighs twice as much wet, as it does dry, and that’s in combination with the soil being a lot softer too.”
He recounts some of the other huge majestic Oaks that came toppling down in downtown recently, one behind Devine Housing Authority, two behind Nellie Ruth’s Coffee Shop, one over near Adam’s Avenue just down the road from Balderrama’s, and one on a private property in the area.
By KK Calame and Kayleen Holder