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Toppled Trees Kill Child, Injure Several At Summer Camp In Carroll County

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Derek Valcourt 370x278 Derek Valcourt
Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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MANCHESTER, Md. (WJZ) — Camp catastrophe. A fast-moving storm claimed the life of a 12-year-old boy when trees toppled down onto a group of more than 100 kids heading for shelter at a Carroll County camp. At least eight other kids were injured.

Derek Valcourt has more on how it all unfolded.

This is the ultimate nightmare scenario for any parent: you drop your kid off expecting they’ll be safe and a freak storm rolls through. For one family, that child is never coming home.

Devastation along a wooded trail at the River Valley Ranch. Downed trees are a sign of the chaos that erupted as a storm blew in just before 7 p.m. Tuesday. That’s when a group of 114 campers between the ages of seven and 12—who were taking part in their daily prayer service in an outdoor pavilion—were being escorted by camp counselors to a nearby shelter building about 150 feet away.

“And in the process of doing that, the storm came upon them rapidly, quickly and violently, without any notice,” said River Valley Ranch Executive Director Jon Bisset.

Falling trees killed one 12-year-old boy and injured eight other children. Six of them had to be hospitalized. The uninjured campers were quickly moved to safe buildings as worried parents rushed to pick up their children.

“It’s just pitiful,” said Rose Marie Lambert, who lives near the camp.

Neighbors say the storm’s powerful winds caught them off guard.

“I was scared to death. I was ready to run down in the basement because I didn’t know if my house would get blown off,” Lambert said. “I mean, it was so strong.”

Officials at the Christian camp say nothing like this has happened in their 62 years and they’re turning to God in this time of crisis.

“That’s what we’re telling our staff. That’s what we are saying to the families involved and we’re just trusting that something good will come from this,” Bisset said. “But right now, we’re just sad.”

The hospitalized children are all expected to survive their injuries.

Camp officials are meeting with parents Wednesday night and allowing them to come and pick up some of the belongings their children left behind in a hurry.

Grief counselors are on hand at the camp, which remains open.

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