Stephen Ellison

Family Recounts Tree Branch Collapse at Menlo College

2-year-old girl and her mother are recovering after being struck by falling 50-foot-long oak tree limb

A toddler and her mother were recovering Monday after a freak accident in which a large tree branch came crashing down on them in Atherton.

A 50-foot long branch on a massive oak tree gave way at Menlo College on Saturday during a company picnic. The branch injured multiple people, including a 2-year-old girl who suffered a fracture to her skull and an eye injury that required surgery. She is expected to fully recover.

The girl's mother, Jasmine Garcia, was walking hand-in-hand with her daughter, Zealyn, when she heard a loud cracking noise from above.

"It just happened so fast," said Garcia, who suffered a broken toe and other bruises. "I just felt branch after branch, bam, bam, bam, hitting us. The final ones made us fall down on the floor."

The girl's father, Chris Garcia, was nearby and saw it all happen. He was relieved when Zealyn began to cry.

"I saw my daughter laying face down, not moving," he said. "I didn’t know what to expect."

Zealyn is recovering from eye surgery at Stanford Hospital, and Jasmine said doctors expect the crack in the girl's skull to heal on its own.

"It’s scary," Jasmine said. "I still picture her laying there. It replays over and over again."

While the Garcia family focuses on getting well, they’re hoping other families or students on the Menlo campus won’t have to experience what they’ve endured.

"I just don’t want this to happen to anyone," Jasmine said. "I believe it could have been prevented."

The tree was being removed Monday.

According to the fire department, there are no laws that require the college to inspect the trees. But the fire department has requested the fire marshal work with the college to put a safety plan in place.

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