For nearly two hours Friday morning - before his screams for help were heard - Alan Cooper lay in bed next to the body of his wife, Marjay, both pinned by a large tree that had slammed through the roof of their Delaware County home and onto their bed.
Neighbors in the 200 block of James Road in Broomall reported hearing a loud crash between 6 and 6:30 a.m., said Marple Township Police Chief Thomas Murray.
But the screams were another matter. A woman leaving for work finally heard the urgent calls for help coming from the rear of the split-level home at the end of a heavily wooded cul-de-sac.
A 90-foot beech tree at the end of the property had toppled into the house, bringing the wall down into the rear bedroom.
Police had to kick in the front door to gain entry, Murray said.
When rescuers made their way to the bedroom, Carl Drake, safety officer for Marple Township, said, Alan Cooper, 79, told them: "Get me the hell out of here.' "
Drake said crews were on their hands and knees using chainsaws and crow bars, assisted by a large crane brought in to lift the tree.
"It was across the bed," Drake said.
It took rescue crews about 70 minutes to extricate Cooper, who was taken on a stretcher to Presbyterian Hospital.
"When the crane picked up the tree, there was a sigh of relief from him," Drake said.
"He's doing well," said Murray.
Alan Cooper was alert throughout the ordeal, Murray said. He knew his 77-year-old wife had died.
The police chief called the incident a tragedy.
"Today was not a day you would expect this to happen," Murray said, referring to the small amount of snow that fell.
The tree, which had a three-foot diameter at its base, showed no obvious signs of disease, said Mike Gillan of MG Tree, adding that he had not had a chance to inspect the base. His company and another crew from RJ Tree Co. were brought in to help with the rescue. "It was more of a freak accident," he said.
The tree workers were able to hoist the tree high enough for fire crews to slip the Coopers out from under, he said.
Details about the extent of damage to the home were not available, but Drake said officials were concerned about the structural integrity of the home.