Rec and Parks employee injured in tree-falling accident 

click to enlarge Robert Watkins (left), shown here in a screen grab from a Rec and - Park video posted earlier this year, supervises a crew cutting up a tree. - COURTESY BAY CITY NEWS/SF REC PARK/YOUTUBE
  • Courtesy Bay City News/SF Rec Park/Youtube
  • Robert Watkins (left), shown here in a screen grab from a Rec and Park video posted earlier this year, supervises a crew cutting up a tree.
A San Francisco Recreation and Parks manager is in critical condition after being struck by a falling tree in the city's Bayview district Tuesday morning, firefighters said.

The agency declined to identify the victim in a public statement, but said he was a long-time, dedicated member of the Recreation and Parks team.

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) confirmed the victim's identity as Robert Watkins, who is listed as a manager on the Recreation and Parks website.

The incident occurred at 9:48 a.m. Tuesday in Hilltop Park. The victim was caught under a falling tree that crews were working on at the time, according to San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge.

"He was running away from the tree and it got him from behind," Talmadge said. "It was the canopy that got him."

Watkins' coworkers helped extricate him from beneath the tree, and when first responders arrived on scene he was conscious and breathing with a laceration on his head, according to Talmadge.

Peter Melton, a spokesman for Cal/OSHA, said Watkins' injuries included a broken ankle, torn ligaments, and an unspecified spinal injury involving "chips" to one or more of his vertebrae.

"It looks like he got hurt pretty bad," Melton said.

Melton said Cal/OSHA has opened a case to investigate the incident, which could lead to citations or financial penalties if that investigation reveals that workplace safety regulations were not followed.

Watkins had experience overseeing crews working with trees. In a YouTube video posted by user SF Park Rec in January, Watkins said jumping in with his staff was his favorite part of his job.

"During the last wind storm my group actually got everything ... that was unsafe onto the ground," Watkins said. "We did not only do that in my area of the city, we actually went around the city and gave help to anyone who needed it."

A spokeswoman for San Francisco General Hospital said Watkins remained in critical condition this afternoon.

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