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Wife worried about tree branches before one fell and killed husband

James Moulin's wife tried talking him out of shoveling the driveway, and later she even warned him to get out from one spot under some tree branches.

They had been hearing branches crack and fall Friday morning.

A few hours later, Moulin lay dead on his driveway off Campbell Boulevard in Getzville, struck by a falling branch.

"I heard the huge crack," his wife, Margo, 54, said. "I saw the tree limb drive him into the ground."

She didn't want him to be shoveling in the first place.

There was no place for either of them to go, since Amherst imposed a driving ban in the wake of the nearly two-foot snowfall.

But 59-year-old James Moulin took pride in his home, and the owner of a painting business wanted to clear the 100-foot-long driveway, like he had so many times before over 20 years of living there.

So his wife of 26 years joined him.

Although nervous about the sounds of cracking branches, she enjoyed their time together doing the chore.

"It was a beautiful morning," she said. "We were just about done. We had a little snowball war, and he won."

The two were alone.

"One of those timeless days," she said Saturday. "We were not looking at the clock, not going anywhere. We had a blessed morning."

Then, the tree branch broke.

The one over the spot she had been worrying about.

In a split-second, their snow day turned tragic.

"When I saw him fall, I ran to him," she said. "I saw how much trouble he was in. He was unconscious."

Mrs. Moulin ran toward a nearby house screaming for help, because she knew the neighbor had a cell phone.

A nurse who lives nearby rushed to Mr. Moulin.

The Getzville Fire Company, based nearby on Dodge Road, also responded quickly.

But the branch, falling from a tree some 80 feet high, struck Mr. Moulin with such force that he died quickly.

"There was no saving him," Mrs. Moulin said. "From the moment it hit, there was nothing anyone could do. There was no pulse. He wasn't breathing.

"There was nothing anybody could have done," she said. "He was already gone."

Much of the driveway was not under trees.

But Mrs. Moulin said she had "a gut feeling it just wasn't safe there" under that one tree.

Earlier, she had asked him to get out from under it.

But taking pride in his work, he was going to shovel all of the driveway -- not leave part of it unfinished.

Now, she has to tell his friends the devastating news of his death. Maybe others can learn from his death.

"I just want to remind people of the irony, the madness, of needing a clean driveway when there's a thaw expected within 24 hours," she said. "Everyone relax a little bit with the driveway fever."

e-mail: plakamp@buffnews.com

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