- A 72-year-old man was killed early Monday after a grand oak tree fell on his house and trapped him in the wreckage.

William Carl Klein was sitting in an upstairs den when the more than 2-foot-wide tree crashed onto the second story of his home at 5 Leone Court, the Berkeley County coroner said.

Firefighters eventually freed Klein, but he later died at a hospital.

Coroner Bill Salisbury said his death was deemed accidental. The tree, which once stood in the corner of Klein's fenced-in yard, likely fell because of heavy rainfall during the weekend, the coroner said.

Klein's wife, Frances, was not harmed.

Neighbors summoned rescuers and officers from the Hanahan Police Department through 911 calls around 12:06 a.m. They had heard the tree crash down and tried to reach Klein, the neighbors said.

They couldn't get to him.

None of them wished to be named.

Police officers said in an incident report that the tree had fallen on top of Klein, crushing the floor beneath him and pinning him to the ceiling of the first-floor dining room.

"The female slept in a separate bedroom," police Lt. Mike Fowler said. "She managed to make it out."

Because of the structural damage, the authorities cleared civilians, including Klein's wife, from the home.

Klein managed to speak with the rescuers as they sawed and pulled away wreckage in an operation to free him. He told them that his legs were broken below his knees, the police report stated.

The officers and firefighters couldn't immediately see his legs because of the debris, they said.

By the time the rescuers got Klein out, a medical helicopter had landed outside a nearby Kmart. The authorities had hoped to fly him to Medical University Hospital.

But his condition was so grave, they said, that they instead drove him to Trident Medical Center.

Their efforts could not save the man. Klein was pronounced dead at 4:12 a.m., the coroner said.

The tree still rested on the back side of the home late Monday morning. It was uprooted when it fell. Its top portion was sawed off during the rescue effort.

Such large oaks are abundant in the neighborhood at the eastern end of Otranto Road near the Goose Creek Reservoir.

A neighbor along North Basilica Avenue, which runs parallel to Klein's street, said she had heard the tree fall and had tried to help.

She said the oak had been leaning to the side long before it fell but that the Kleins had the tree inspected periodically.

Another man who lives on the same cul-de-sac as the Kleins said he had a tree removed last year from his front yard. Parts of its core were rotten to the top, and carpenter ants were getting to it, the neighbor said. He feared that it would fall during a windstorm.

But the tree on Klein's land appeared healthier, he added. Its leaves were still thick and green.

As he surveyed the oak from behind an iron gate, the man declined to be identified because, he said, he was concerned about Klein's wife.

"He was a good neighbor," the resident said. "That's all I can say now."

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.