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Wife of NYC firefighter sues Biltmore Estate after her husband was killed by falling tree on the historic property

By Jamiel Lynch and Melissa Alonso, CNN

The wife of a decorated New York City firefighter is suing the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, after a tree on the property fell on the family car and killed her husband, according to a lawsuit.

Angela Skudin alleges that when she and her husband, Casey Skudin, were celebrating Casey’s birthday at the estate on June 17 with their two children, a rotting tree fell on their car, fatally breaking Casey’s neck and inflicting multiple spinal fractures on their 10-year-old son, according to the suit filed in Buncombe County, North Carolina last week.

Casey Skudin was a 16-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department and a recipient of an FDNY Medal, according to the suit. In a statement to CNN, the department called his death a “terrible tragedy and loss to his family and the FDNY.”

The lawsuit accuses the Biltmore of knowing the tree was rotting to a dangerous degree and failing to remove it, instead installing cables to keep it standing.

“Defendants knowingly and intentionally kept a massive, rotted tree on its property next to a main road where Defendants knew it would cause great harm when it fell,” the suit says, later adding, “Despite this knowledge, Defendants decided to install inadequate cables to try and merely keep the tree upright, instead of taking the appropriate measure of cutting the tree down and eliminating the potentially fatal risk.”

The Biltmore is accused of gross negligence, and the family is seeking punitive damages in excess of $25,000 for costs including medical expenses, mental anguish, and lost wages, the suit says.

The Biltmore said in a statement that they “adamantly deny all allegations of willful or intentional conduct on the part of the Biltmore, as well as allegations of negligence,” but reserved further comment while in litigation.

“A portion of a tree fell during a period of high winds and struck the guest’s vehicle as they entered the estate,” the statement added. “There have been multiple eye witness accounts of a short duration high wind event around that time. There are no words to express our deep sorrow for the Skudin family’s unimaginable loss and we offer them our deepest sympathy.”

The Biltmore Estate was built by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s as a private home. It was designated as a national historic landmark in 1963 and now operates as a museum property and tourist attraction with a winery, inn and gardens.

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