A man has died after an oak tree collapsed 20 feet down a steep embankment on to a houseboat in Cornwall.
Paul Welch was crushed to death by the falling oak, which careered into the boat, causing what sounded like a “massive earthquake”.
The boat’s owner Lee Moody and his girlfriend made desperate efforts to save Welch’s life by holding his head above the rising tide as he lay in the wreckage.
Emergency services, including an inshore lifeboat, were called to the scene in Sailor's Creek, near Flushing, Cornwall, at 5:45pm on Saturday.
Welch, who was in his 50s and originally from Plymouth, Devon, was treated at the scene but later pronounced dead.
Tributes have been paid to the “amazing and loving father”.
Devon and Cornwall Police said officers were currently treating his death as a “tragic accident” and a file was being prepared for the coroner.
Moody said Welch had been living with his family near Rame, Cornwall, at the time of his death.
He said: "The tree fell completely down and smashed our boat up and took our mast down.
“It was like a massive earthquake, then a massive smash and it was a massive oak tree that’s down.”
Moody and his girlfriend were in the boat at the time, along with Welch’s young daughter.
He said: "I couldn’t get down to help, so my girlfriend went down and was trying to save him with the tide coming in trying to hold his head up out of the water.”
Moody had recently been in hospital following an operation, which meant he couldn’t get down to help his friend.
He said: "It was coming in around him, he was all crushed. He had his daughter watching it all."
Moody said neither he nor his girlfriend were injured but that she was really “cut up” about what had happened.
Dramatic pictures showed that a massive oak tree crashed more than 20 feet down a steep embankment by a public footpath on to the boat below.
Another eyewitness, who did not want to be identified, said he was in his boat when he heard a “shattering” crash.
He ran up the embankment and could hear lots of shouting and people with torches.
The eyewitness said a number of trees had fallen down on the houseboats over the years and that one had fallen on his.
Tributes have been pouring in for Welch.
Brett Jackson wrote on Facebook: "Paul was an amazing, gentle man and a loving father who will be badly missed by our community."
Police say they were called by the fire service following reports that a tree had fallen and a man on the beach had been injured.
Coastguard and the RNLI Lifeboat also attended the scene and the man was brought to shore where he was seen by paramedics.
Devon and Cornwall Police said: “At this time the death is not being treated as suspicious, but as an accidental death. We are carrying out enquiries and in due course a file will be prepared for the coroner.”
Accident-scene investigators later moved on to the site to try to work out what happened and asked for locals to avoid the area.
Anyone who witnessed the incident and anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting log 617 02/01/2021.
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