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'She got lucky and we got lucky'

Judy Loftstedt of Sandy is one lucky woman.

Loftstedt, 65, was on the Historic Columbia River Highway headed to Gresham Tuesday night when a massive Douglas fir tree fell from a cliff just south of the Stark Street Bridge.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY FIRE DISTRICT 14 - A Multnomah County Fire District 14 firefighter radios in for additional help Tuesday night after a massive Douglas fir tree crushed the car of Judy Loftstedt of Sandy. Less than 30 minutes later Loftstedt was on her way to the hospital.

The 30-inch diameter tree fell directly across the passenger compartment of her Ford Taurus, crushing it.

“I was first there. I was expecting something very, very bad,” said Dave Flood, chief of Multnomah County Fire District 14. “She was crunched in there. The roof was flat essentially at the top of the doors. She was down in there, it had broken the driver’s seat back.”

“She got lucky and we got lucky,” he said.

The tree fell from an area south of the bridge that had not presented problems in the past, unlike a cliff farther north that constantly sheds rocks and trees during wet weather.

In Loftstedt’s favor, was a sturdy, wooden guardrail on the Sandy River side of the road. The top of the tree landed on the guardrail, crushing its two rails but keeping the tree about 16 inches off the ground.

“That’s what saved her bacon,” Flood said.

Corbett firefighters used an inflatable airbag to slowly raise the tree until they could support it with wooden timbers.

“We kind of built it up,” Flood said. “That’s what got us enough room so we could cut the door and get her out.”

The whole operation took 27 minutes.

Flood said his department responds to a lot of fallen trees but Tuesday night was the first in years where the passenger survived being pinned by such a large tree.

Loftstedt suffered a broken wrist and other bumps and bruises.

She was taken to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland and released Thursday. She declined to talk about the incident.

“She’s just really banged up and sore,” said Kelly Love, a Legacy Health Systems spokeswoman.