A San Diego kindergarten teacher was seriously injured after she sacrificed her own safety to help protect students from a falling tree branch, parents said.
The large eucalyptus branch fell at Miramar Ranch Elementary School just after 2 p.m. Wednesday as students were walking out of class.
"I heard this really loud crack," said Ray Johnson, who lives next to the school. "It sounded like a gunshot."
He said he turned around and saw "a large branch peeling off and falling."
San Diego Fire-Rescue crews said the large branch fell from approximately 50 feet above the schoolyard, knocking teacher Lana O'Shea unconscious for about 30 seconds.
Witnesses said O'Shea was walking children down a set of stairs and managed to push several children out of harms way before she was struck.
A parent with two children enrolled at Miramar Ranch said she was directing traffic with the safety patrol when the accident happened.
"It was really scary," said the woman who identified herself only as Christina. "I mean, once I found out that's what happened, it was really scary. A lot of people moved very quickly to make sure everyone was safe."
O'Shea was taken conscious to Sharp Memorial Hospital in La Jolla for what fire officials said was a wound to the back of her head.
A San Diego Union School District spokesperson said O'Shea suffered non-life-threatening injuries and is expected to be okay.
No one else was injured.
School officials are checking all trees on campus to ensure there are no other loose branches.
"Fast-acting parents and staff were able to clear the area quickly and all students were kept safe," staffers said in an email to parents. "Unfortunately, one of our teachers was hurt and taken to the hospital for an exam."
Johnson said trees in the area have become increasingly worrisome in the past few months.
"Yeah, it's a concern now," he said. "It really hasn't been for a long time. I can see how that can be really dangerous."
Christina said the trees at the school have been the source of mixed feelings for parents as well.
"In some ways, we like the trees because they provide shade, but yeah, I think there's probably some concern to try and keep them trimmed back, to make sure everybody is safe," Christina said.
San Diego Unified School District officials said in a statement that a year of historic rain and a decade-long drought has lead officials to keep a close eye on the drought.
"Over the past two years, we have spent more than $100,000 to improve the conditions of the trees at Miramar Ranch, and across all our schools, the amount spent within the last year alone, is more than $395k," the statement read.
Officials said a team of experts, including a certified arborist, spent Thursday examining the tree. Suspect areas will be isolated and pruned, officials said.
The school will have counselors on hand on Thursday, as several students witnessed the accident.
San Diego police said they initially responded to the the scene because the injured officer put out a radio call for "officer down or officer needs assistance."
Any student, parent or community member with safety concerns about a tree is asked to report the issue to their principal or our Quality Assurance office at (619) 725-7211.