The death of a 5-year-old in Pownal who suffocated after being pinned by the rootball of a large pine tree may have been a bizarre and tragic accident, but it is not unique, say officials.

A 4-year-old in Waterboro died in 2005 under remarkably similar circumstances.

Experienced woodsmen apparently are aware that uprooted trees can maintain some tension, and will occasionally spring back into place once the tops are removed, Joyce said.

Five-year-old Isaac Benjamin died Sunday after playing in the hole created when two pine trees toppled in last week’s wind storm, officials said.

The tree had blown over and Isaac’s grandfather, Christopher Gowen, 51, was cutting up the tree to help out his daughter, who had in recent weeks moved back from Maryland to her hometown of Pownal.

Isaac’s father is deployed with the Marines, currently stationed in Hawaii.

The trees, approximately 50 to 60 feet tall, had narrowly missed the garage as the roots pulled partly free from the soggy ground, creating a hollow where they had been, said Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce.

Gowen cut through the trunk of one tree, a foot and a half in diameter, and when he did, tension in the roots that remained in the ground suddenly pulled the 10-foot stump upright, the roots crashing back into the hole, Joyce said.

Gowen looked around for Benjamin and his 13-year-old sister and then spotted some of the boy’s sweatshirt beneath the roots.

“While family members called 911, the grandfather frantically tried to dig his grandson out from under the tree,” Joyce said.

Rescue workers were able to drive into the woods, attach a line from the pickup to the pine, and pull it back so the boy could be freed.

The boy was taken to Maine Medical Center by ambulance but was pronounced dead. The state medical examiner determined the cause of death to be accidental asphyxiation from the weight of the root system compressng the boy’s face and chest.

Officials with the Medical Examiner’s Office asked Joyce to draw attention to the potential dangers of downed trees because Isaac’s death is not the first under similar circumstances.

The medical examiner cited the same cause of death on July 2, 2005, when 4-year-old Lucas Herrin was killed in North Waterboro.

The boy and another youth were playing in the fort-like space created by the uprooted tree when work on the tree caused the roots to topple back into the hole, Joyce said. The 4-year-old was killed but the other child escaped, he said.