A falling redwood in northern California ended two lives last week and changed five more forever. The California Highway Patrol says Jake Woodruff, 36, and Jessica Woodruff, 45, were killed when the 175-foot tree crushed their vehicle on Highway 199, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. They were on a road trip along the coast to celebrate Jessica Woodruff's birthday. They leave behind five children ranging in age from eight to 24. Cousin Emma Miravelle Hood tells the Wild Rivers Outpost that the two adult children "are from Jessica’s prior marriage and they have immediately stepped up to take on raising their younger siblings that share Jake and Jessica as parents."
"This was a shocking and unexpected event, and the tragedy of this accident makes it difficult to accept as real," relatives wrote at a GoFundMe fundraiser for the children. Police say they don't know why the tree fell as the couple drove along a stretch of highway lined with redwoods between Crescent City and Hiouchi Thursday. Authorities say there were only light winds in the area at the time. "It's in the middle of the redwoods," CHP spokesperson Brandy Gonzalez says. "It’s just old growth and we have no idea why the tree fell. It was Mother Nature." Gonzalez says the tragedy is "very, very unusual." (Read more redwoods stories.)