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Tourist Injured by Falling Branch on Capitol Grounds

A visitor to the Capitol was injured Tuesday after being hit by a falling tree branch on the House side of the Capitol.

The incident occurred around 1 p.m., when the victim, a man approximately 60 years old, was standing with a group of Boy Scouts from Lebanon, Conn., on a sidewalk beneath the European ash, located near the Independence Avenue driveway. The Capitol Police did not release the man’s name.

K-9 Officer Thomas Perrell was parked next to the sidewalk when he heard what he described as a “cracking” noise.

“I just sat down [in the car] and heard the branch crack,” he said. Perrell called for the group to move moments before the branch fell. A portion of the tree landed on the rear of Perrell’s car, in which both he and Emit, a black Labrador, where located.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel said Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a trained physician, assisted the injured man before he was taken to George Washington University Hospital for examination. The man was both conscious and coherent after being injured, she said.

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) was on his way to meet the group when he saw the fallen tree. “I’m glad no more than one person was hurt,” Simmons said, noting that the group continued its tour following the incident.

It is possible that the tree, which is between 75 and 100 years old, may have been damaged by the recent weather, which has included heavy rains and high winds, Gissubel said.

House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) has requested Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman to evaluate other trees on the Capitol Complex grounds to prevent similar incidents from occurring.

“Over the last several months, a number of steps have been taken by the AOC, such as preventative trimming and cable reinforcement, to maintain the integrity of the trees under his care, especially during the ongoing Capitol Visitors Center construction,” Ney said. “While it is unfortunate that any number of natural occurrences could have caused today’s accident, the AOC has assured our committee that everything possible will be done to prevent such an accident from occurring in the future.

Employees from the Architect of the Capitol’s office began removing the branch about an hour after it fell.

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