Memorial trees on site of Northwest Flight 255 are dying and being cut down

Posted at 10:38 PM, Aug 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-14 22:43:11-04

Unraveling a mystery at the memorial for Northwest Flight 255. 

Thursday, Aug. 16 marks 31 years since the tragedy. If family and friends go to the site to pay respect to those 156 souls lost, they may notice some things missing. 

It's been more than two decades since the Austrian Pines were planted in dedication to those who lost their lives when Flight 255 crashed. Now, just days before the anniversary, some of the trees are gone after being cut down, others are dying. 

The first daylight after Flight 255 crashed on the night of Aug. 16, 1987, showed the terrible wreckage at I-94 and Middlebelt in Romulus. 

At the site now, etched in stone, are the names of the 156 people who lost their lives. Protected by pines dedicated to the victims, planted before the memorial's unveiling on the 7th anniversary. The site is paid for by the families of the victims. 

After 24 years, many of the pines are dying. Arborist Kevin Schible says the source of the problem is actually not neglect. 

"When they were smaller they probably looked nice," Schible said. "As they are growing and weeding each other out, obviously the weaker trees are being overtaken by the healthier ones."

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) owns the land and is responsible for the upkeep of the area. They've contracted the services out. One of the contractors refused to cut down a tree because of what each one honors – a victim. 

MDOT says no more trees will be gone before Thursday's anniversary, and the ones that are will be replaced in the fall.