Family mourns Flushing man killed by felled tree
By Joe Anuta

A tree blown over by winds from Monday night’s superstorm fell onto a Flushing home, killing 29-year-old St. John’s University graduate Tony Laino, police said, and Tuesday afternoon friends and family gathered for an emotional reunion in front of the crushed residence.

“He was a wonderful, wonderful young man. There’s no explanation for something like this,” said Heather Valente, whose daughter Danielle was Laino’s longtime girlfriend.

At about 7 p.m. Monday night, the large tree in front of the house on 166th Street between Lithonia Avenue and Pidgeon Meadow Road teetered forward and fell onto the roof under the force of what was previously called Hurricane Sandy, flattening nearly one-third of the top floor of the two-story home. The gigantic trunk fell directly onto Laino’s room and crushed him while he was on a couch, according to neighbors.

Laino was pronounced dead on the scene by emergency workers, according to the NYPD.

The family had been asking the city to take down the tree for years, according to neighbor Joann Evangelista.

Just two or three months ago city workers came to prune the branches off the large tree, and Laino’s father had begged for them to cut it down even though arborists had told him that the tree was healthy and could not be dug up, Evangelista said.

“It was tragic,” she said. “You just can’t get it around your head.”

Evangelista said neighbors repeatedly dialed 911 after the tree came crashing down, but could not raise someone on the other line.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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