Surely I'm not the only person who assumed that the above sign, posted to a fence at an Francisco's Maritime National Historical Park, was some sort of art prank, like the activities of the Billboard Liberation Front or that No Tech Zone guy. But I was wrong! They actually mark the spot where a visitor to SF had his skull crushed by a 16-pound pine cone, leaving him brain damaged. Now that man is suing for millions, in the hope that no one else will share his strange and tragic fate.
Sean Mace, a U.S. Navy veteran, was visiting San Francisco for Fleet Week 2014 when he settled in at Maritime Park "to read and rest," the Chron reports. Unfortunately, he was unaware that he took a seat under several bunya pines, an Australian tree known for huge seed pods which can grow to as big as 40 pounds before they fall.
Mace had dozed off beneath these trees when one of the pods broke loose, striking him in the head. According to court documents, he was "rushed to San Francisco General Hospital, where he underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain from internal bleeding. Five days later, another surgery was required to further relieve pressure building inside his skull, " the Chron reports.
According to SF-based attorney Scott Johnson, who is representing Mace, his client will eventually need a third surgery, as well as "lifetime care."
“This guy has an irreversible brain injury and he’s only in his mid-50s," Johnson tells the Chron, and in a court filing writes that Mace has "severe and likely irreversible cognitive deficits" as a result of his injuries.
Since at the time of Mace's accident there was no indication to visitors of the threat to those who linger under the non-indigenous trees, Mace is seeking $5 million from the U.S. government, the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
After Mace was injured, as many visitors to the Fisherman's Wharf area have surely seen (myself obviously included), a plastic fence with the above signs has been placed around the trees, which are located right where loads of visitors to SF pass every day.
But that's not enough, Johnson says.
"First and foremost, the Park Service needs to do something to make sure this never happens again...This park is full of tourists and schoolchildren. Something needs to change."
But while a fix to the Park might be easy, solving Mace's problems will prove more challenging, Johnson tells the Chron.
“He’s afraid to go outside at this point because he’s afraid something is going to hit him in the head."
"Our priority is to institute change and help this guy out. He was doing pretty well before the accident, and now he is completely dependent.”