An Eden Prairie woman who was killed by a falling tree Friday afternoon died doing what she did every day — taking her two dogs on an hourlong walk.
Nina MacKay, 56, was struck by the tree on a trail near Mitchell Lake.
“Next to her family, Nina’s passions were her dogs and fitness,” her husband, Ian, said in a prepared statement. “A daily hourlong run and an hour walk with the dogs was her norm. We lost her doing the things she loved, exercising her dogs with a walk in the park.”
The accident happened about 5:20 p.m. Friday when MacKay was walking the dogs with a friend. When the tree fell, one of the dogs got loose and ran home, but the leash for the other dog got tangled in the branches. The friend suffered only two scratches.
The first person on the scene was Jack Sheehan, a volunteer emergency responder who lives in the neighborhood.
“The first thing I noticed was that Nina had suffered massive crush injuries and likely died instantly,” said Sheehan, who spent 20 years as a firefighter. “Even if I had had a crane to lift the tree off her, it wouldn’t have done any good.
“The next thing I noticed — and why this sticks with me, I don’t know — is that the dog was sitting next to her with a bewildered look on its face. We’re all bewildered. Why did that tree fall after 90 years? And why did it fall in that little three-foot wide swath where Nina was, while the person next to her only gets a couple of scratches?”
Everybody knew her
She was the best-known person in the neighborhood, neighbor Mary Jean Watras said.
“You’d always see her going through the neighborhood running or walking or biking,” she said. “She’d stop and chat or at least wave as she went by. She was friendly to everybody, I don’t know anyone in the neighborhood who doesn’t know her.”
Her enthusiasm was contagious said another neighbor, Carrie Beaton.
“When I mentioned that I wanted to get in shape, she talked me into joining a [fitness] class with her,” Beaton said. “She kept saying, ‘I’ll save you a space. I’ll save you a space.’ That’s going to be a very hard class to go to on Monday.”
Friends described MacKay as being an active volunteer in the schools and youth sports associations. She also was involved in multiple civic organizations, having served on the Heritage Preservation Committee, the Eden Prairie for Parks referendum committee and the K-12 Advisory Council.
“Nina seemed to know everyone in town,” her husband said. “She spent many hours among neighbors and friends visiting and sharing stories, contributing to the glue that holds communities together.”
Beaton agreed. “She had a big footprint in the community,” she said.
In addition to her husband, MacKay is survived by a son, Cameron, 21, who will be a senior at Iowa State, and a daughter, Lindsay, 18, who will be a freshman at the University of Kansas.
Tree appeared healthy
City officials have not determined what caused the tree, near the intersection of George Moran Dr. and Belfast Cove, to fall. The 90-year-old tree’s trunk was 30 inches in diameter, and winds were measured at 23 miles per hour, well below the level typically needed to knock down a tree that size.
There was no visible damage or disease on the tree before it fell, said Beaton, who walks the trail on a daily basis.
“That’s what makes this so freaky,” she said. “Farther up the trail there were some trees that we were concerned about after the recent storms, but we weren’t worried about this tree at all.”