A swimmer who was struck by a falling tree in a pool in the Bronx was taking a lunch break from her job at home when she was fatally injured in the freak accident, grieving family members told the Daily News on Tuesday.
Donna Douglas, 59, was dead after the tree fell with such force that a neighbor thought a bomb had gone off near the pool around 1:35 p.m. Monday.
“It was crazy, man,” said the victim’s brother, Steve Douglas, from his home in Maryland. “It’s really terrible. If there was a bad storm… but dying on a bright, sunny day? That’s crazy. She was way too young”
Her boyfriend of two decades fought back tears on Tuesday as he recounted the devastating scene seen poolside behind the Palisade Ave. arrived near Kappock St. in the Spuyten Deyvil neighborhood of Riverdale.
“They didn’t let me down where she was,” Gabe Gonzalez recalled. “All I know is that she stopped responding when they pulled her out of the water. It is difficult. I go back and forth you know? It’s just a shock.”
According to both men, Douglas went swimming every day while working from home at her job for the Davis Polk law firm in Manhattan.
“I was walking back from playing softball on Long Island when the doorman called and said there had been an accident,” Gonzalez said. “No one told me anything.”
The fatal incident came just two days after a falling tree branch fatally struck a man sitting on a Brooklyn park bench.
The falling tree in the Bronx also injured a 72-year-old woman swimming with Douglas. This victim was initially listed in critical but stable condition but was home and recovering Tuesday.
Bronx neighbor Michael Gallo, 62, said he brought the surviving swimmer home from the hospital Tuesday night. A lifeguard and some neighbors who heard the falling tree rushed to the scene but were unable to do anything for Douglas – who was starting to work in her apartment when COVID struck.
“She was dead on impact,” Gallo recalled. “When we pulled her out of the water, she had no pulse and a deep laceration on her head. It was terrible.”
Douglas, as she often did, was swimming laps with the surviving victim when the bizarre incident occurred, Gallo said.
“She was shaken,” Gallo said of the survivor. “She just lost a friend of hers – and it could have been her. It’s crazy that one comes out of the water and the other doesn’t.”
According to Gallo, the tragedy was just a bizarre accident.
“These trees have been there for decades and have survived storms, high winds and all types of weather,” he said. “And nothing like this has ever happened.”
Douglas’ brother also struggled with the difficult details of her death.
“It’s not supposed to work that way,” he said. “How are you? There’s nothing you can do.”