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8-year-old girl in Florida suffers fractured skull from falling tree limb during school recess

Posted at 3:58 PM, Mar 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-21 11:48:12-04

An 8-year-old girl in Florida was seriously injured when a massive tree limb fell on her Monday, as she was playing in a school playground during recess.

Patricia Whidden suffered a fractured skull when the limb fell on her, dropping from a live oak at Edward Upthegrove Elementary School in LaBelle.

"It's an extremely tragic incident, and we are investigating," said Lucinda Kelley, deputy superintendent of Hendry County District Schools.

Patricia's aunt Kristi Whidden said her niece has bleeding and swelling of the brain, and is recovering at a hospital in Delray Beach.

"Right now, she's being kept sedated to give her brain and body a chance to recover," Kristi Whidden said.

Live oak trees form a canopy over many schools in Hendry County. Kelley said she believes the limb that fell on Patricia was a freak accident, although the LaBelle area did sustain a lot of damage from Hurricane Irma last fall.

"The limb that fell did not appear to be, at first glance, related to that," Kelley said. "We are going to ask for the help of an expert arborist to come in and examine all of the trees."

In the meantime, the the school district has closed playground where Patricia was hurt. 

Although sedated, Kristi said her niece did wake up at one point during the night, and was able to respond to questions with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

"Right now, the focus is on Patricia and getting her through this," she said. "A lot of people have sent their prayers and positive vibes."

Upthegrove Elementary is organizing a sock hop fundraiser to help Patricia's family with expenses. It will take place on Friday during school hours.