An enormous pine cone allegedly fell on Sean Mace’s head when he was resting under one of Maritime National Historic Park’s pine trees last October. Weighing in at 16 pounds, Mace – a U.S. Navy veteran — says that the injury he sustained from the falling conifer caused him “significant brain damage.” He is suing the park, managed by the National Park Service, as well as the Department of the Interior for five million dollars in damages. He says that parks should post signs to warn visitors about the possibility of sustaining injuries from pine cones that fall from trees. The lawsuit cites “dangerous conditions of public property and negligence” on behalf of the park.
The park, which is in the San Francisco Bay Area, did post that signage after Mace sustained his injuries, the lawsuit says. They also placed netting and barricades around the trees so that visitors would not get too close. But that was too little too late for Sean Mace.
According to Mace’s attorney, Scott Johnson, Mace was “immediately rendered unconscious. Blood was going everywhere.”
After the mishap, he was transported to San Francisco General Hospital where he was treated for brain swelling. According to Johnson, Mace suffered some short-term memory loss as a result of the injury, and may need more medical care in the future.
Johnson also said that Mace still has a “tremendous degree of anxiety” and continues to fear another blow to the skull. “It’s like a bowling ball falling from the sky and hitting you on the head,” said Johnson.
A park spokesman said that it is against the park’s policy to offer a comment on ongoing court cases.
The bunya pine, which produces the enormous pinecones, is a native species of southeast Australia. There, pinecones can grow to weigh as much as 40 pounds and be as large as watermelons. In the Australian town of Warragul, these bunya pinecones were a public health risk. The pine cone threatened to fall on tourists visiting the Warragul court house. Arborists were called in to find a solution, and there were no reported fatalities in that case.