NBC 4 New York
A pregnant woman sitting on a New York City park bench was struck and killed by a falling tree Sunday evening. On Monday, her devastated National Guard husband and family returned to the scene. Jen Maxfield reports.
A pregnant woman sitting on a New York City park bench was struck and killed by a falling tree Sunday evening, and another woman hit by the tree was seriously injured, according to authorities.
Yingyi Li-Dikov, 30, was six months pregnant, relatives said. The Parks Department said she was struck by the 50-foot-tall tree in Kissena Park in Queens when it snapped about 8 feet from the ground.
She and her husband, Aleksander Dikov, had planned to name their baby Christine, and her Chinese name would have meant "moonlight," according to the woman's mother-in-law.
Dikov, a combat medic in the National Guard, said Monday that he was devastated. He and his wife had just gone shopping for the baby girl, who was due Nov. 10.
"I can't believe this is still happening," he said, inconsolable at the site of his wife's death, dressed in his soldier's uniform. "I can't believe it."
"I don't know what to do. I feel like I hit a stop and I just hope I recover from this because so far I'm not good taking it good."
"I wish I went with her," he said. "I don't know if I could have prevented something. Now I think back to everything I did. Maybe I could have texted her and said, 'Come back, go somewhere else.' Something could have changed."
Witnesses said the tree came crashing down. Paramedics tried to resuscitate Li-Dikov for several minutes, according to witnesses.
The other woman injured by the tree is in serious condition.
Li was raised in China, and Dikov grew up in Bulgaria. His parents were initially skeptical of their son's girlfriend, who was 26 when he met her at age 16, but grew to love her and welcomed her into their family.
Janet Dikov, Li's mother-in-law, shared an ultrasound image of her granddaughter.
"When they said it would be a girl, I was so excited," she said.
Some residents said they hoped the tragedy would push the city to spend more money on park maintenance.
"The park is old, the trees are old," said Salvatore Delligatti. "A lot of trees have been coming down in the past few years with the storms we've been having."
State senator Tony Avella, who is running for Queens borough president, and other community activists called on the city to stop planting new trees and instead inspect existing ones.
"We shouldn't plant new trees until we can guarantee the existing trees are safe," he said.
Alex Segura, owner of the tree removal company All Above Tree Experts in Queens, looked at some of the trees in Kissena Park with NBC 4 New York Monday. He noted several hollowing tree trunks, a sign the tree is at risk of collapsing.
Examining the rotted stump of the tree that killed Li, Segura said he was surprised the fatal fall didn't happen sooner.
Twelve people have been killed or injured by trees in New York City over the last eight weeks, according to parks advocate Geoffrey Croft.
The Parks Department said the 70-year-old tree was in a section of the park that had last been inspected on June 20. The tree was being examined "to determine more about its condition."
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