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Local gallery owner who died after being struck by tree branch remembered as vibrant, curious

A close friend of a woman who recently died after being hit by a falling tree branch in Trinity Bellwoods Park is remembering the local art gallery owner as youthful, vibrant and curious.

Madeleine Donahue, a friend of Pari Nadimi’s of more than 10 years, told CBC News that Nadimi suffered a “massive” brain injury as a result of the incident last week, causing her to go on life support. She later died in hospital last Thursday.

“She totally loved and supported her family, for her that was everything,” Donahue said.

Nadimi had owned Pari Nadimi Gallery since 1998, just steps from Trinity Bellwoods, according to the gallery’s website. Originally born in Iran before immigrating to Canada, Donahue says the 71-year-old was a big supporter of the arts both locally and abroad.

“Arts was her passion. She was still very engaged in her business as an art gallery owner and representing well-known contemporary artists nationally and internationally.”

Nadimi was in the west Toronto park last Tuesday when she was struck by a branch. Toronto police said officers were called to park shortly after 5:15 p.m. 

She was rushed to a local trauma centre with serious injuries, according to police. The area in the park where the branch fell was later taped off as police investigated. 

Ontario’s office of the chief coroner confirmed it is investigating the death.

Trinity Bellwoods Park tree branch death 1
Toronto police taped off an area in Trinity Bellwoods Park after a woman was struck by a large tree branch last week. (CBC)

Donahue says when she became aware of what had happened Tuesday, she raced to the hospital to meet Nadimi’s brother and sister, who live in Toronto.

“She was in very bad shape when the emergency services brought her to [hospital],” she said. 

“It was very bad, the doctors basically had said she was gone, she was on life support system … it was a massive brain injury for which there was no recovery.”

‘Tragedy struck,’ witness says

Local resident Mohamed Al-Rahawi saw the incident unfold last week, and said he was sitting on a bench when he heard the sound of a branch falling.

“I looked and I got up right away and I knew a branch was coming down,” he said. 

Trinity Bellwoods tree branch death 2
A Toronto police cruiser is seen here in the park after the branch fell. (CBC)

Al-Rawahi said he shouted at a woman who was walking in the area to get away. He said he saw her turn around and try to go the other way, but she wasn’t fast enough.

Al-Rawahi said police and paramedics were at the scene within minutes. People in the park cleared leaves off her and tried to help, he said.

“There were people helping her,” he said, adding that what happened was a “tragedy.”

City assessing trees in ‘high-use areas’ of park

In a statement issued Monday, the city said staffers are continuing to assess trees in “high-use areas” of the park.

“Analysis of the removed tree remains underway. Any required tree maintenance work will follow,” the statement reads.

The city added that it removes trees that are severely damaged and pose an imminent safety hazard to people, nearby property and street infrastructure.

“Maintaining City trees in a safe and healthy condition is its primary focus and is critical for establishing a mature, sustainable urban forest,” the statement reads.

Members of the public are urged to report hazardous trees and branches by calling 311.

In June 2016, a man was killed while he was trying to protect his wife from a falling tree branch in the same park.

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