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50-pound falling ice chunk pins woman to ground

She was knocked unconscious and treated at an area hospital

By Katherine Clark
Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN, N.Y. — A 50-pound chunk of ice fell from a roof Wednesday afternoon and struck a woman on the back, knocking her out and pinning her to the ground.

Rosa S. Zhunio was walking outside the house at 539 Cross St. between the building and a car parked in the driveway shortly before 1 p.m. when the 3-by-5-foot block of ice fell from an eave 10 feet high and hit her. Though she was initially knocked unconscious, she was awake and talking when firefighters arrived 10 minutes later, according to Watertown Fire Department Capt. Derek M. Derouin.

Ms. Zhunio, whose age was not listed, was treated at Samaritan Medical Center and released. The nature of her injury was unknown, though firefighters strapped her to a spine board as a precaution.

“It was just the wrong spot,” Mr. Derouin said. “If her son hadn’t been there she could still be pinned under the ice.”

Ms. Zhunio was at the house owned by her son, Angel D. Morocho Zhunio, Evans Mills, apparently cleaning out the rental property when the ice fell from the roof.

Ms. Zhunio, who Mr. Derouin said only spoke Spanish, communicated to the emergency response personnel through her son.

Watertown City Fire Department Chief Dale C. Herman said there is a lot of ice accumulation in the Watertown area because of low temperatures and heavy precipitation. Because the temperatures are expected to rise into the 40s, he expects to get a lot more emergency calls relating to falling ice over the next few days.

Mr. Derouin said “We get a couple of calls a year about someone being hurt by falling ice, but I’ve never gotten a call on my shift about someone being trapped by ice.”

Michael J. Conway, who lives next door to the residence said the woman and her son had been working for the past few days to clean out the rental property and said his neighbor happened to be in the “wrong spot at the wrong time.”

“It’s all coming down today,” Mr. Conway said, noting the snow coming off the roof of the house next door and ice falling from his own roof.

“The ice is pretty to look at, but trying to deal with (it) can be dangerous, Mr. Herman said.”

Watertown resident Gene B. Sweitzer said that when ice fell and dented the roof of his truck last year, he learned not to park too close to a house or building.

“The insurance wouldn’t cover it. Apparently if it falls from the sky it’s considered collision and I wasn’t about to pay a lot of money to fix it,” Mr. Sweitzer said.

Falling ice is not only a problem for pedestrians but can be dangerous if the heavy pieces fall and hit a gas or electrical meter. Mr. Herman said ice also can go through lower roofs, break windows or cause gutters to collapse.

“There is a lot of weight in that ice,” Mr. Herman said. “If the gas meter is damaged, the gas will start coming out and into the air, and if they have gas heat, they’ll have to be left in the cold while it’s fixed.”

Mr. Herman said preventive measures such as raking the snow off the roof wouldn’t do much at this point. He said it would only have helped when the ice was thin. Now the ice is more likely to slide off the roofs and is more dangerous for someone inexperienced to try removing alone.

“When the ice is this thick, people should hire a professional,” Mr. Herman said.

Daniel J. Kampnich, owner of the Kampnich Roofing Co., said he had two emergency calls on Wednesday and expects more through the weekend to remove ice safely from roofs.

“My first call was a man who was determined he was going to do it himself but his wife convinced him to call a professional,” said Mr. Kampnich. “You can’t just go up and take care of it with a pick or an ax, because when the ice is heavy, it could come down and take out your ladder at any time, and then you’re in trouble.”

Another risk is if the gutters and eaves are blocked with ice and the bottom layer starts to melt, Mr. Kampnich said; the water would have nowhere to go and could cause interior damage.

Mr. Herman said people should be cautious walking or parking their vehicles under eaves or hanging ice, especially over the next few days when temperatures are expected to be in the 40s with rain.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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