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Massive oak tree tears through roof of Great Neck home, seriously injures sleeping woman, authorities say

The Great Neck Alert Fire Company responds to

The Great Neck Alert Fire Company responds to a call about a tree falling into a house with a woman trapped on Wooleys Lane East just after midnight Monday, July 27, 2015. Credit: Paul Mazza

A 20-year-old college student was seriously injured early Monday when a nearly 5,000-pound oak tree crashed through the roof of her second-story bedroom in Great Neck, trapping her where she had slept, authorities said.

It took more than two hours, fire officials said, for a team of specially trained rescue workers, along with other firefighters, to free the woman from the house on Wooleys Lane East. She was identified as Stephanie Epstein.

After it tore through the roof, the tree was resting on the center of the bed, said David Cion of the Long Island Lumberjack Tree Service in Patchogue.

"She got real lucky," said Cion, who helped remove the tree. "I think the girl was surrounded by angels."

In a statement, Nassau police said the woman was treated at a hospital for "multiple trauma injuries and is listed in serious but stable condition."

The tree crashed through the roof about 12:04 a.m., Nassau police said.

The oak fell from a neighbor's yard and appeared to have structural damage, probably from a previous storm, Cion said.

Joe Gill, clerk-treasurer of Great Neck Village, said village officials survey trees on public property after major storms. If someone notifies the village of an unsafe tree, the village is required to investigate, he said.

Utility crews shut off the power early Monday to eight houses on Wooleys Lane East and Ravine Road until the tree was removed, officials said.

Epstein's father, Geoffrey Epstein, said she was home for the summer.

"We're more than appreciative of the well wishes and the care that she's received so far," he said.

Outside the home, Stephanie Epstein's grandmother said her granddaughter was awake but heavily medicated.

"She's doing just fine," said Epstein's grandmother, whose name was not available.

The Nassau County Fire Services Technical Rescue Team, a unit from several fire departments trained to rescue victims in unusual situations, worked amid treacherous conditions to free the college student, said Michael Uttaro, assistant chief fire marshal of the Nassau County Fire Department.

The Great Neck Alert Fire Department and the Great Neck Vigilant Fire Company also responded, Uttaro said.

Rescuers had to work around live power lines before PSEG crews cut off electricity, Uttaro said, adding that they also had to shore up the house and the more than 2-ton oak.

It was not known Monday night whether power had been restored.

They also feared the sagging second-story roof would collapse, so rescue crews worked to stabilize it and cut away branches from the fallen tree.

It was the first time the multi-agency rescue team, in place for just over a year, had handled such a large operation, Uttaro said.

The unit includes responders from the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department, the Bethpage Fire Department, the Port Washington Fire Department and the Bellmore Fire Department.

"Judging from the fact that it had a good positive outcome, it worked out well," he said.

Uttaro said that, while being rescued, Epstein was "conscious and reasonably alert, given the situation she was in."

With Gary Dymski

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