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Tree crushes to death woman and infant son

October 5, 1997

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) _ A man illegally chopping down a 100-foot tree for firewood watched in horror as it fell on his fiancee and their infant son, crushing them both to death.

Keith Rademaker Jr. had been chopping at the Douglas fir for nearly an hour when a gust of wind toppled it over Friday morning. Rademaker’s fiancee, Cari Ann Clark, was taking their 5-month-old son, Aaron, out of a safety seat in the car at the time.

``All I could do was yell `No!′ I couldn’t believe it,″ Rademaker said. ``It happened so fast they hardly knew what hit them.″

The infant died of a skull fracture and his 30-year-old mother was killed after suffering broken ribs and a broken leg and ankle.

San Bernardino National Forest officials said it’s common for residents of this mountain community to cut down trees for their own firewood and that thousands of $25 permits are issued annually.

However, Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Follett said Rademaker and his father, Keith Sr., didn’t have a permit and were cutting down a green tree. Residents are supposed to cut down only dead trees.

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