A large fig tree, which fell in the Sutherland shopping centre on Friday afternoon, was found by a council arborist to be "in normal health and structure" when last inspected in February 2020.
The driver of a ute, which was trapped under the fallen tree, together with a woman and child, suffered minor injuries and were taken to hospital after the incident at the corner of President Avenue and Eton Street about 4.30pm.
The tree fell onto the Rosin Court Chinese restaurant, next to the IGA supermarket, normally a high pedestrian traffic area, used by many school students.
A Facebook comment said: "I was there an hour before. No wind, beautiful day, hundreds of children crossing right there. How can a tree just fall?"
Arborist Ben Zacka, from Bob and Ben the Tree Men, inspected the fallen tree and told told 9 News it "appeared to have some sort of decay due to its age, or even due to works done to the tree many decades ago"
The full extent of the building damage was apparent after the tree was removed yesterday.
The ute driver, a carpenter named Paul, told 9 News he was grateful to be alive.
"I didn't realise how close it was," he said when he returned to the scene.
"All of a sudden it just got dark, a branch came through the windscreen and I thought, 'I have just been hit by a tree'"
A council spokesman said the "partial collapse" of the tree "impacted a vehicle and two business premises".
"Three patients were also treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics at the scene for minor injuries, with all three subsequently transported to Sutherland Hospital," the spokesman said.
"Council staff worked throughout the evening to remove the tree and assist responding emergency services in restoring traffic flow to President Avenue, with the last remnants of the tree removed early Saturday morning.
"The cause of this collapse has not yet been determined.
"Council routinely inspects trees on both council and private property throughout Sutherland Shire where issues have been raised by members of the public.
"This tree was last inspected by council staff in February 2020, with an expert arborist determining that the tree was of 'normal health and structure'.
"While council is keenly focussed on addressing any potential threats to public safety, no formal decision has yet been made in relation to the assessment or remediation of any neighbouring trees."
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