SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A tourist severely hurt when a large pine cone fell on his head as he settled into a spot to watch Fleet Week last year is suing the U.S. government for damages.

Navy veteran Sean Mace required two surgeries after the 16-pound pine cone fell from one of the park’s bunya pines and hit him on the head as he rested under a tree last October at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, his attorney Scott Johnson told KPIX 5.

Mace, who in his mid-50s, suffered “traumatic brain injury, with severe and likely irreversible cognitive deficits,” according to court papers.

Sean Mace

Sean Mace (Scott Johnson)

He is suing the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior for $5 million, alleging park policies require removal of exotic species that create safety hazards.

Bunya pine trees are native to Australia and are thought to have been planted by park staff years ago. Their pine cones can grow to the size of footballs and weigh up to 40 pounds.

The Australian Native Plants Society website notes that falling bunya pine cones can be a hazard to people standing underneath and that “an exclusion zone should be created around the base of any tree that contains cones.”

The suit also alleges at the time there were no warning signs or fences to keep people away from standing under the trees.

There are now plastic fences up and warning signs around the park’s bunya pines.


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