Local News

Uprooted tree kills UNC student in Chapel Hill

Posted June 14, 2013

— A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior died Thursday after being hit by a tree uprooted during a severe storm, authorities said.

Xuezhou "Julia" Nan, 20, of Cary, was trying to get home at about 5:15 p.m. when a large oak tree fell across the front yard of the Chi Omega sorority house, in the 300 block of East Franklin Street, and landed on top of her on the sidewalk.

"She stopped and told us there was a storm coming and she was trying to get home, and then, all of the sudden, I heard a really loud cracking," said Adriana Lorenzini, 15, who lives nearby.

"I’d been really close to the tree when it fell, and I couldn’t understand why she’d been the one under it and I had’t," Lorenzini said.

A family got out of their car on Franklin Street and began pulling branches off Nan and called 911 for help, she said. A physician who was jogging in the area also stopped to try to help.

"I think she was pushed backwards really hard, and she fell really hard and hit her head on the brick," Lorenzini said, adding that she felt powerless to help Nan.

Someone pulled Nan from under the tree before paramedics arrived, but she was unresponsive, Orange County EMS Director Jim Groves said. She was pronounced dead at UNC Hospitals a short time later.

"It was hard for me last night," Lorenzini said.

Tree kills UNC student UNC student trying to escape storm when killed by tree

Nan, who double-majored in psychology and biology, was a graduate of Panther Creek High School in Cary.

"Julia was a very sweet girl," said Diego Malaver, a friend since high school. "She always had a smile on her face."

Another high school and UNC friend, Eric Schafer, called her "a positive spirit" who was both brilliant and modest.

"You just don't expect anything bad to happen to someone like this," Schafer said.

"It is so hard to lose one so young, especially in such a terrible, random and tragic event. I hope that all of you, Julia's fellow Tar Heels, will keep her family and friends in your thoughts at this sad time," Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a message Friday to students and staff.

Thorp said counselors were available on campus to help people cope with the death.

"Life is just really fragile," said Mollie Martin, a rising senior at UNC.

Martin said one of her friends saw the tree hit Nan. "It just kind of puts things in perspective that anything can happen," she said.


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  • lovecary Jun 14, 2013

    "Does UNC send an alert via a text?" Yes, they do if you are signed up to receive it. You are asked to update your preferred method of alert every time your email expires.

    Sending prayers to her family and loved ones.

  • BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah Jun 14, 2013

    Heartbreaking News.
    Does UNC send an alert via a text?
    I know some of one campus that sent an alert to faculty and students telling them to Take Shelter immediately and stay in the Shelter until the warning expired as 70 mph winds were expected in some areas.
    Most people did as they were told.
    They sent an All Clear message after the warning had expired.

  • alwayslovingu30 Jun 14, 2013

    alot of bad things happened last night. A youg girl was at wake medical center in raleigh A tree crashed thru the house an she lost one of her eyes due to A small limb puncture.My dad hit A tree in the road it fell across in front of him before he could stop it was to late.He is ok.

  • whyalltheproblems Jun 14, 2013

    oh that poor girl :( my heart goes out to her family. so very sorry for the girl who saw it happen.

  • EnoughWhiningAlready Jun 14, 2013

    How very sad. :(

  • Zorg Jun 14, 2013

    "The bad thing about that storm is it came up SO quickly...we were caught off guard by it. So sad...thinking of this students friends and family. :("

    It is tragic, but, no - we weren't caught off guard. It was on the news all day that it was coming and it was going to be bad. My wife was going in to the grocery store (less than a mile away) and I told her to turn around and come home - NOW. By the time she got here, it hit.

  • Naysayer Jun 14, 2013

    Sad, she had so much promise and a bright future ahead of her.

  • themacs Jun 14, 2013

    Julia was an awesome young woman. She was funny, kind, and very hard-working. So sorry for this tragic and random loss.

  • raleighpaw Jun 14, 2013

    There is a lesson in this tragedy. Old trees, particularly oak trees need to be inspected periodically by a professional. My grandparents were both killed during a similar storm when their old oak tree split.

  • LOC Jun 14, 2013

    Praying for the family.. So sad! RIP young woman