30-foot branch crashes onto Quad, narrowly misses students

Additional reporting by Abigail Poag

At approximately 2:36 p.m. on Oct. 23, a 30-foot branch splintered from a live oak tree in the center of the Quad, falling dangerously close to a group of seniors playing Spikeball. Other than a minor scratch on senior Ken Matsunaga’s leg, no one was injured. 

The six seniors—William Stingl, Michael Daichman, Luke Alexander, Nicolas Munoz, Aidan Via and Matsunaga—had reached matchpoint in their game when the temperature “dropped 10 degrees,” a gust of wind rustled the trees and a sharp cracking noise rang out across the Quad. 

“I thought it was lightning,” Stingl said. “I look up, and this massive branch is about to fall.”

According to Luke Alexander, the boys reacted swiftly, “bolting out of the way.” 

“That’s all we could do,” Alexander said. 

Director of Curriculum Dwight Raulston (`71) witnessed the branch’s fall from the patio of the Quad, where he had been reading prior to the incident. 

“The wind kept coming faster and you could see the tree’s big branches [swirling] around,” Raulston said. “I started to text my wife about the weather, and that’s when there was a big crack.”

English teachers Clay Guinn (`92), Kristiane Stapleton and Warren Rawson, who were inside Rawson’s first-floor classroom, rushed to the Quad upon hearing what sounded like a “shotgun blast.” 

“We all jumped two feet off the ground and ran outside to see the boys scattering,” Rawson said.

Immediately after the branch landed, students began congregating on the Quad. 

“We were all just screaming like banshees,” Alexander said.

Several faculty members exited their classrooms and directed students to move away from the debris. 

Senior Anne-Charlotte Gillard was in a Zoom call during the incident. From her vantage point on the Quad patio, it looked as though the Spikeball players “almost died.”

Stingl is relieved that his reflexes prevented him from sustaining injury. 

“Sometimes near imminent death, you get that feeling that tells you to get out of the way,” Stingl said. “I felt that feeling, and I got out of the way.”