Falling tree limb kills Chico State student on campus

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B

An 18-year-old student at California State University, Chico, died Tuesday when she was struck by a large oak tree limb as she sat in a campus courtyard.

Pa Houa Lor was in the Lassen Hall courtyard behind Butte Hall about 3 p.m. when the limb fell from the tree. People in the area came to her aid and Lor was taken by emergency personnel to Enloe Medical Center, where she died later that afternoon, university officials said.

Lor, a Chico High School graduate, entered CSU, Chico, and the Educational Opportunity Program in fall 2012 as a health science major with the goal of becoming a nurse.

"She was a very positive person — shy, respectful, a really good student," Victoria Bass, coordinator of Educational Opportunity Program admissions, said in a written statement.

The accident stunned the campus community in its first week of fall classes.

"I've been here 16 years, and I've never heard of anything like this," said Joe Wills, campus public affairs director. "I don't know of any other incidents like this."

Officials said the courtyard was cordoned off after the incident but has been reopened. Two arborists examined the tree, one Tuesday and the other Wednesday morning, and determined that it does not need to be removed, Wills said.

"The tree itself is a healthy tree," he said. "There are some theories why a tree would drop a limb like this. In summertime, they do retain some water. It comes up from the roots, and the limbs do get heavy in the summer, but that doesn't mean they drop off."

Local media described the limb as about 20 feet in length, and Wills estimated it was 8 to 10 inches in diameter. He said an arborist indicated the tree, a red oak, could be 50 to 80 years old.

Wills said an arborist walked through the entire campus before the start of classes to evaluate the stock of trees.

"Our campus is an actual arboretum," Wills said. "We give tours. There are trees here that date back to the founding of the school when John Bidwell founded Chico and gave the land for Chico State. Some trees are from the 19th century, but not many."

University officials said Lor lived with her family in Chico. An older brother also attends Chico State. Services are pending.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

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