Md. camp mourns death of 12-year-old boy

WASHINGTON – A Maryland summer camp suffered shock and sorrow at the death of a 12-year-old boy, who was killed when a tree fell on a group of campers.

The boy and six other campers were taken to the hospital and several others suffered from minor injuries when a portion of a tree fell on the children at the River Valley Ranch, a Christian camp in Manchester Tuesday.

“It was sunny and within a minute, the storm was there,” says Executive Director John Bisset. “It looks like a tornado went through a small section of this camp.”

About 114 children were gathered in a hilltop pavilion singing and listening to Bible stories when the storm hit about 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Staff moved the campers, ages 7 to 12, to a building that was about 150 yards away. The tree fell as they children were walking along a trail in a wooded area on their way to the building.

“As the storm front came through, several large pieces of the tree basically snapped in half and the large part of the tree fell,” says Cpl. Jon Light with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department.

“A good number of trees were actually sheared from the force of the storm,” Light says.

The section of the sprawling camp that serves younger campers was closed Wednesday following the accident. Parents came after the storm to collect their children. They were invited to return to collect their camper’s belongings and allow their child to meet with grief counselors.

“We are a Christian camp, and we do believe in our heart that God is in control. And despite difficult circumstances in our life, we rely on him for our strength. So that is what we are doing here. That is what we’re telling our staff. That’s what we’re saying when we talk to the families involved,” Bisset says.

The remainder of the camp, which serves teenagers, remained open. And tree crews were on site cleaning up the debris.

Children ride horses and learn Christian values while at the Western-themed camp, which has been operating for 62 years.

Bisset says that staff routinely monitor the weather and that staff followed the proper protocols when the storm aproached by moving the children to a safe location.

“They were stellar. They jumped up and enacted the protocols right away, did everything they could,” he says. “We are definitely going to be looking at our protocols and all the things that are in place to see if there is anything we can do to ensure that this never happens again.”

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WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report from Manchester, Maryland. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on Facebook.