TWO workers had a miracle escape when a 70ft oak tree crashed down on top their van.
Chris Lloyd had stopped at the traffic lights next to St Mary’s Church in Ferndown when he turned to apprentice Billy Harwood and said “God loves you,” before he saw the giant tree falling towards them.
A branch hit the ground and is believed to have prevented the trunk crushing the van before shocked witnesses saw other motorists driving their cars through the gap under the tree as it rested on the Mercedes Sprinter van.
Chris, 46, from Poole, said he was trying to cheer Billy up in their W+S Recycling Services vehicle before the tree fell.
“I was coming down Ringwood Road and outside St Mary’s Church the traffic stopped,” he said.
“Billy was feeling a bit down and I turned to him and joked ‘God loves you’.
“Then the tree came down straight onto the top of the truck just behind where we were.
“We couldn’t open the doors.
“We heard the crunching as it came down and afterwards we climbed out of the windows.
“We’re pretty shaken. The ambulance checked us over.
“And the truck looks like it’s a write-off.”
Billy, 17, also from Poole, said Chris saw it first and said to “get down”.
“I held my head between my knees,” he said.
“It was shaking the van like mad and we had to climb out of the windows as the doors wouldn’t open.”
Roofer Shaun Teversham was up scaffolding at the church when he heard the tree starting to creak and turned around to see it falling before dialling 999.
He said: “It was slowly going down, making a hell of a mess.
“It was creaking and going.
“It hit the van and there was one branch which hit the ground and stopped the main trunk of the tree hitting the floor.
“If that branch had hit the van, it would’ve gone straight through.”
Shaun was among those shocked to see people driving through under the tree trunk after it fell just before lunchtime yesterday.
He said: “Someone came along with bikes on the back of their car and couldn’t get through once they got under the trunk so they reversed out.”
Bystanders believed the tree was uprooted after being hit by strong winds overnight and brought down electricity and telegraph cables as it fell.
People from the church put down cones to stop the drivers driving under the tree before the police arrived and shut the road.
Traffic quickly backed up in both directions and down Dudsbury Road with heavy traffic as far back as Parley Cross while tree surgeons took the tree apart and technicians arrived to fix the cables.
WITNESSES to the drama were relieved to see the pair emerge unscathed.
Natalie Holloway, 41, went out to walk her dog poppy with her daughter Antonia, 11, and her friend Lauren Simper when she saw the van.
Natalie said: “It’s lucky nobody was killed. The traffic has been absolutely horrendous.”
Samantha Paul, 25, was in her car on the opposite side of the traffic lights on Ringwood Road coming towards the centre of Ferndown when the tree fell.
She said: “I saw the car moving and the tree on top of it and I nearly cried.
“I was going that way and it could’ve been me.”
Sammi Peacock, 30, was on her way to work at the White Heather pub.
She said: “I saw all the branches swaying in the wind before it happened.
“There was one that was sticking out more and when I saw the tree was down I thought ‘Oh my God’.”