Children, teacher injured when tree branch falls on them at Ojai elementary school


It was a little after 1:00pm, and elementary school students at Topo Topo School were playing on the school yard behind the main building.

There is a big elm back there and at the most inopportune moment...a tree limb measuring 8-inches in diameter and approximately 25-feet long snapped and smacked five people - four of them children.

A teacher and a child were taken to a local hospital in critical condition. Two children had what's being described as moderate injuries. One child had minor injuries.

Melanie Lopez heard about the freak accident when she got to the school to pick up her 11-year-old daughter Acacia. She told us,"It's concerning."

Her daughter told us, "I saw the whole school running over to where the tree happened and then I saw the branch. They said that probably the trees dried or has disease."

Captain Stan Ziegler with Ventura County Fire says no one was pinned, but still injuries were critical in two cases and one patient had to be airlifted to a local hospital.

The culprit here? Says Ziegler, "It really is caused by the drought that California has experienced for the last five years. Drought is a big player in diseased trees and stressed trees. They're not getting the nourishment and the water they need and they start to die but from the outside of the tree you really can't tell if that's the case. We have had rain and it was just enough to bring us out of a drought but apparently not enough to bring all the trees in the Ojai Valley back to a healthy state."

Meanwhile, Melanie Lopez, who works in the tree-care business told FOX 11, "These things can not be predicted unless they had an arborist come in and really look at the property."

Captain Ziegler says an arborist does make regular checks at area schools, but still the tree branch fell. OSHA is investigating since a school employee was hurt.

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