Family grieves Occidental toddler killed by storm-toppled tree
Around sunset Wednesday night, as a fierce wind-driven rainstorm intensified over Sonoma County, Aisha Tocchini was walking toward the double-wide trailer outside Occidental where she and her husband and 2½-year-old son have lived for a year and a half.
The mobile home sits under towering redwoods that line much of Joy Road, along a ridge southwest of Occidental.
Tocchini, 32, was returning from checking on her horses, goats and sheep, when she heard a splitting crack and watched as one of those coast redwoods came crashing down on the home.
Inside were her husband, Santa Rosa native Dan Tocchini, and their son, Aeon — “the light of our life,” his aunt, Liz Haskins, said Thursday.
Dan Tocchini, 49, bolted out of the wreckage screaming, Aisha said. She learned in that moment that the tree had fallen directly on their son, where he’d been sitting on a couch in the home. Her husband had been about five feet away when it crashed through the roof, she said.
“I thought they were both dead,” she said, speaking with a reporter Thursday morning at her property.
The tree had pinned Aeon, who the family called “Goldie” — “because of the color of his hair and because he had a heart of gold,” said Haskins.
With the aid of neighbors, the Tocchinis were able to free Aeon from the wreckage. They tried driving a truck, already damaged by the tree fall, into the trunk to shift it. They were ultimately able to saw enough pieces off the tree to get to the boy, Aisha said.
The Occidental Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched about 5:15 p.m. Upon arrival, Occidental Fire Chief Ronald Lunardi saw Dan Tocchini carrying the injured child.
Lunardi said he rushed the child to emergency personnel stationed on Joy Road. They performed CPR but were unable to revive the boy. He was pronounced dead at 5:48 p.m. at the scene, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
“He was the joy of our family,” said Haskins, Dan Tocchini’s sister. He loved to dance and “shined like the sun,” she added.
“He represented something to our family, and it was like hope to us.”
Dan Tocchini was badly scratched by the fallen tree, Aisha said, but was otherwise physically unhurt and was with his wife Thursday morning as numerous loved ones and neighbors arrived to help out at the property and support the family amid its devastating loss.
Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched about 5:50 p.m. and then took over the incident. They brought a chaplain to comfort the family, Lunardi said, even as trees were continuing to fall.
Aisha Tocchini said a second large redwood also later fell and struck the house. A Press Democrat reporter on Joy Road heard a large tree fall at around 8 p.m. as first responders were finishing their work.
“It was so violent,” Aisha Tocchini said of the storm, which brought down numerous trees along Joy Road.
Before the storm, Tocchini said she spoke with the property owner about whether the family should worry about the massive redwoods, a small grove of which stand adjacent to the double wide. The owner had never seen any redwood fall, she said.
“And then there were two,” Tocchini said.
The danger and damage were prevalent across the region Wednesday night into Thursday as winds battered trees and roots gave way amid saturated soils after days of rain.
An untold number were reported down across Sonoma County, overwhelming rural fire districts especially in the forested west county and the coast toward Fort Ross.
A GoFundMe has been set up by Haskins to help the family.
Two older siblings of Aeon were at the time with their mother, Dan Tocchini’s ex-wife, and were safe, Haskins said.
The Tocchini family have been at the forefront of Sonoma County theater ownership for a century. Their company, Santa Rosa Entertainment Group, operates the Roxy, Airport Stadium and Summerfield Cinema theaters in Santa Rosa.
Staff Writer Madison Smalstig contributed reporting.
You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or email@example.com. On Twitter @AndrewGraham88