A US family experienced a tragic start to their family holiday, with shocking footage emerging of the moment a tree fell on their SUV, killing father-of-two Casey Skudin.
Last month, Mr Skudin, from Long Beach, New York, was driving with his wife Angela and their two kids through the state of North Carolina at the start of the trip when a tree toppled over and crushed their car.
The family were reportedly planning to celebrate Mr Skudin’s 46th birthday and Father’s Day that weekend at the Biltmore Estate, a popular tourist spot in Asheville.
Phone footage taken from inside the car, shared by the New York Post, showed the car approaching a bend on a tree-lined road when, without warning, a huge tree branch appeared to snap off as the car passed beneath, shattering the windscreen.
The family’s car was crushed after a tree branch fell on it.
The phone appeared to drop near the glove box, with Ms Skudin’s blonde hair visible in the frame.
“Is everybody ok?” she asked, before looking at her husband and realising the extent of his injuries.
“Oh my God! Casey!” she screamed, before the video was cut off.
Their youngest son, 10-year-old Channing, was reportedly knocked unconscious and suffered broken bones, while their eldest, Benjamin, 19, was also knocked out.
Both Benjamin and Ms Skudin walked away with minor injuries.
Mr Skudin, a highly-decorated veteran firefighter, reportedly broke his neck.
In a post shared to Facebook, Ms Skudin revealed that her husband had a pulse “for the entire hour it took to remove the 4,000lb tree that fell directly on him”.
“It was crazy. I was the only one that wasn’t knocked out,” Ms Skudin told the New York Post.
“Just watching your husband die and you can’t do anything is really insane.”
In a heartbreaking Facebook post, Ms Skudin said her husband’s death had left a “gaping hole” in her life.
“I am left shattered while I navigate this new existence, one I never wanted to know. I have nothing left to do with my days but fight for you, for our family, for the hero they took,” she wrote.
Sharing a photo of her husband’s casket, Ms Skudin wrote: “Honoring you [sic] has been my absolute pleasure & I will continue to do so until our souls meet again.”
Angela Skudin shared images of her husband’s casket after he was killed in a freak accident while driving.
The father-of-two is being remembered as an “adoring husband”, a “stellar father”, and a “courageous firefighter”.
In a GoFundMe page set up for the family, his death is described as a “catastrophic loss” for his family, friends, and members of the Long Beach community.
“Angela, Ben, and CJ have an overwhelming amount of healing ahead of them. We hope to support them by taking away any stress along the way,” it reads.
Ms Skudin is now suing Biltmore Estate for $AU 228 million for “grossly negligent conduct” and seeking compensation for medical costs, funeral expenses, lost wages and punitive damages, according to reports.
Her lawsuit claims the fallen tree was rotten and had been held up with cables.
It argues that Biltmore “knew it would cause great harm when it fell” and that the estate should have taken “appropriate measure of cutting the tree down and eliminating the potentially fatal risk”.
Following the tragedy, Biltmore issued a statement admitting they were “deeply saddened by this news”.
“Our heartfelt thoughts are with the family and their loved ones, and we are offering assistance at this time,” they reportedly wrote.
They have denied any wrongdoing in the statement.
Images: Angela Skudin (Facebook)
This article first appeared on OverSixty.