Ventura County

Fallen tree branch injures teacher, students at Ojai school

Tree limb falls and injures 5 people

OJAI, Calif. - A teacher and four students were injured on an Ojai elementary school campus Monday.

It happened around 1:12 p.m. at the Topa Topa Elementary school when a large tree branch broke off from an elm tree and struck a teacher and four students.

The teacher suffered critical injuries and was sent to the hospital by ambulance. A young male student also suffered critical injuries and was airlifted by a helicopter to a Ventura County trauma center.

Two other students suffered moderate injuries and one student complained of minor injuries.

Yellow tape surrounds the area of the playground where the tree branch fell. 

Capt. Stan Ziegler of the Ventura County Fire Department said tree limbs can be deceiving.

"Trees can drop limbs just without any warning at all. You can look at a limb and think it's light but if you tried to lift it up you’d find it's very heavy," Ziegler said. "Depending on the type of tree, that limb can weigh anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds or even more and if it’s falling from any distance it can cause serious injuries.”

Zeigler also mentioned the drought may have played a role in weakening the tree. Soon after the accident, crews showed up and started cutting up the tree. All other trees on the campus will be assessed for safety.

Andrew Cantwell, Ojai Unified School District Superintendent, said that all stressed trees on the school's property will be identified by a ribbon affixed on the trunk and areas of concern will be roped off beginning Sept. 26. Eventually, the stressed Elm trees that pose a possible risk at other school sites will be removed, according to Cantwell.

Cantwell also said three of the four patients who were taken to area hospitals were discharged Tuesday evening. One person remains in the hospital.

Topa Topa Elementary School is located at 918 Mountain View Avenue in Ojai. The school has students ranging in ages from Kindergarten to sixth grade. 


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