A GRANDMOTHER was almost crushed by a tree in a near-tragedy that she feels could have been avoided.

Lorraine Ayres was making a cup of tea in her kitchen on Sunday when she heard a 'thunderous' crack, as a huge tree next to her mobile home uprooted during Storm Ciara.

It came crashing down onto her roof near Radley, smashing the bathroom where she had been just minutes earlier.

Her 'dream' home in Pebble Hill Park has been ruined, but her family is thankful she was not killed.

Grandmother-of-six Miss Ayres, 67, said she told Vale of White Horse District Council months before the incident that the tree was unstable.

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Her daughter Leanne Higgs, who lives in Oxford, said: "This could have killed her. It's complete negligence.

"For six months she has been telling the council the tree is unsafe, she got so worried before Christmas with branches falling off. But they said it was safe.

"You could clearly see that the root was not big enough to hold a tree of that size."

The council has denied this and said the tree was 'healthy and not at risk of uprooting'.

The mobile home site is run by the council, and although Miss Ayres owns the property itself, the land and trees are the council's responsibility.

Miss Higgs said: "She saved to buy it outright, as a home for her to live and die in.

"She's spent years making it into her own dream palace - it was her own little paradise."

Miss Ayres had been at home with a roast dinner cooking, when the tree shattered the roof and windows at about 2pm.

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She managed to grab her cocker spaniel Honey and they both fled uninjured, but they are currently homeless and having to stay with family.

She said: "I was stood in the kitchen and heard this huge noise - I can't explain it, it was creaking, but like thunder.

"All of a sudden the tree started coming through the ceiling. The bathroom had gone and there was water shooting out like a fountain.

"I ran outside screaming, saying 'please help me' - I didn't even have any shoes on.

"All I keep hearing is that noise. I don't think I'll ever forget it."

Her neighbours rallied around and called firefighters, who quickly arrived on scene.

Both Miss Ayres and Miss Higgs spoke of how 'brilliant' the fire crews were, even helping to salvage sentimental antiques from inside.

Self-employed housekeeper Miss Higgs said: "There is literally no bathroom left - it's just a tree.

"If she had been in the bathroom, it would have killed her - there's no two ways about it."

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She and her two siblings have been helping with the clean-up, collecting any intact possessions from the devastated remnants of the home.

Miss Ayres, who is Oxford born and bred, is a keen gardener and loves the woodland setting of the park.

The retired palliative care worker said the Turkey oak tree was more than 100ft tall, and had been shedding large branches and leaning to one side.

It was growing just a couple of feet from her property.

She added: "I've been asking every year for it to be reduced.

"I was worried about it in high winds, I was getting scared as it's so close."

She said the council told her in October they would remove the deadwood, but she had heard nothing since.

Several other Pebble Hill residents have shared their concerns.

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One man, who asked not to be named, said it took three years of pushing for the council to cut one of his trees down.

He said his late wife struggled to sleep at night during high winds, as she was afraid of it collapsing.

One woman, commenting on a residents' Facebook page, said: "Branches drop on our roof all the time.

"I don't believe they are inspected anywhere near as often as they should be."

Another added: "We have two trees that we were told are coming down. That was three years ago."

Authorities recorded 153 fallen trees and branches in Oxfordshire during Storm Ciara's rampage, as gusts of up to 60mph battered the county.

A district council spokesperson said: "We are sorry to hear what happened to Ms Ayres' home and for the distress it has caused to her and her family, and we are doing what we can to support them.

"We inspected this tree annually, most recently in October, and had carried out additional inspections following Ms Ayres' requests.

"On each occasion the tree was healthy and not considered at risk of uprooting.

"We are satisfied that Sunday's incident was caused by the storm and not due to the condition of the tree."