Local couple uninjured after tree smashes home

Wade McIntyre
From left, Reginald Roberts, Red Cross representative Natalie Johnson, Joyce C. Scott and Red Cross representative Gene Gonzales, prepare to inspect the trailer rented by Roberts and Scott at 712 Gautreau in Gonzales. The tree beside the trailer split around 3 a.m. Thursday and fell on the trailer while Roberts and Scott were in the home. Staff Photo by Wade McIntyre

Reginald Roberts had just gone to the bathroom around 3 a.m. Thursday and was lying down on his lounge chair inside his comfortable double wide rental trailer at 712 Gautreau in Gonzales. On the Western Channel in front of him, an oater movie staring Burt Lancaster played.

Roberts was about to receive an unexpected, early wake up call.

A towering oak tree located beside the trailer split in half and crashed through ceiling, dropping debris - plaster of Paris, insulation, wood splinters and leaves and bark on Roberts and his fiancé Joyce C. Scott. The lounge chair where Roberts lay was sandwiched between two limbs that broke through the ceiling but stopped short of falling on top of him.

Miraculously, the trailer supported the huge limbs just below the ceiling, and both Roberts and Scott escaped injury.

“It was more than a wake up call,” Roberts said while surveying damage to the trailer in the bright light Thursday morning. “I thought someone threw a bomb in the trailer.”

Soon after the tree split, the trailer’s owner Richard Kuhlmann of Prairieville received a call from his tenants.

“I was shocked because you don’t expect something like this to happen,” he said.

Kuhlmann hurried over to his rental property and met with the fire department in order to have the electricity cut off in order to prevent a possible electrical fire.

“I was planning on going fishing this morning,” Kuhlmann said. “If it had to happen, I’m glad it happened before I got away.”

Three vehicles, including a Dodge Ram pickup, a Toyota Corolla and a van were parked in the asphalt driveway on the side of the trailer opposite the tree. They were driveable, but received some damage, Roberts said.

Thursday morning, as Roberts and Kuhlmann inspected the damage while waiting for a tree cutter to remove the limbs from the trailer, two representatives of the Red Cross arrived to see if the organization could be of assistance. Natalie Johnson and Gene Gonzales said Red Cross would provide lodging in a motel for the night if Roberts and Scott needed a place to stay.

After the couple took the Red Cross representatives on a tour inside the trailer, Kuhlmann leaned against his truck, surveying the damage. One of the limbs which landed between a window and the trailer doorway, stopping just below the roofline, looked as if it could easily have fallen farther down.

“These trailers are better made today,” Kuhlmann said. “They have 2-by-4-foot walls just like a house.”

Kuhlmann said the exterior wafer, or OSB board, on the outside of the trailer helped catch the limbs and prevent them from falling farther.

“It was a blessing,” Roberts said. “This could have been tragic.”

At top, one of the limbs from a tree that fell on the trailer rented by Reginald Roberts hangs above the lounge chair where Roberts was watching television when the tree crashed on the trailer. Another limb, not seen, hangs over a dining table to the right of where Roberts is sitting.