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Tree slams into Duxbury house, leaving family homeless days before baby is due

A huge tree fell on Wendell Phillip's home in Duxbury at the height of the nor'easter, ripping two huge holes in the roof.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

DUXBURY — As the nor’easter howled early Wednesday morning, Matthew Tosca and his wife, Cynthia, who is pregnant with a baby girl, were making coffee at their home on Winter Street in Duxbury.

That’s when it happened. A huge tree slammed into the 18th-century house. “It was like a bomb went off,” said Cynthia Tosca, 29. “You heard these big sounds and windows breaking.”

She ran up the stairs, screaming for her 9-year-old son, Alexander. Fortunately, both Alexander and Matthew Tosca’s great-uncle, Wendell Phillips, 67, who owns the house, were able to get from their bedrooms past the tree, which had crashed into the upstairs hallway. Plaster dust filled the air like smoke.

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Cynthia Tosca sits with her son Xander, 9, in her grandmother's living room on Friday, Oct. 29, as he watches a show on TV. Tosca, her son, and and her husband, Matthew, had a huge oak tree fall on the home they live in on Winter Street at the height of the nor'easter, ripping two huge holes in the roof. Cynthia is pregnant and is due in three days.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

“We were coughing, trying to breathe,” Cynthia Tosca said. But, she said, “we got really, really lucky ... no injuries, no bruises, no nothing.”

With the house left uninhabitable, she said, all four have been staying at the house across the street, which is owned by Phillips’s sister (who is Matthew Tosca’s grandmother). A family meeting, with both Matthew’s side of the family and Cynthia’s side of the family, was scheduled Saturday to talk about what to do.

The mishap could hardly have come at a worse time for Cynthia and Matthew, 27. She is slated to deliver her new baby by Cesarean section on Monday.

Possible options include staying longer at Matthew’s grandmother’s, or going to his mother’s, she said. In a week or two, they may be able to move to a trailer on the property while the historic house, built in 1765 and always in the Phillips family, is repaired.

A huge tree fell on Wendell Phillips's home on Winter Street in Duxbury at the height of the nor’easter, ripping two huge holes in the roof. The family escaped without injury.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

“It’s really just couch-bouncing until there’s a solution — with a newborn,” she said. Not to mention the challenge of making sure Alexander gets to school every day. A friend has started a GoFundMe to help them, she said.

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“It’s day by day at this point and try not to lose our minds,” she said in a telephone interview.

At the house Friday, Phillips was working to cut branches off the tree, hoping to get a tarp up before more rain could pour in.

“It’s terrible timing.” Cynthia said, watching the work while staying warm in a hooded pullover. She said she wanted to help in the cleanup, but “they told me not to.”

She saw a a bright side to the situation, saying friends and neighbors have been supportive — and things could have been far worse.

“It is a tough time. but we have lot of friends,” she said in a telephone interview. “The neighborhood has been coming over and checking on us, showing a lot of support.“

“We’re just happy that none of us got hurt. We are all safe by some miracle. It’s not as bad as it could have been. That’s what we’re focusing on. Day by day, moment by moment, working together, that’s all you can do in these moments,” she said. “We’ll get through it.”

On Friday, Oct. 29, an emotional Cynthia Tosca and her husband, Matthew, watched as work was being done to remove a huge oak tree that fell on the home at the height of the nor'easter.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Wendell Phillips and neighbor David Miller worked on the tree Friday, hoping to get a tarp on the roof of the Duxbury home before more rain moves in.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff



Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.