More details emerge about B.C. teen's death during camping field trip
Published Thursday, June 20, 2019 8:55AM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 20, 2019 7:08PM PDT
As family and friends mourn the 13-year-old boy killed after a tree collapsed on Vancouver Island this week, more details are emerging about how the terrible tragedy unfolded.
The teenager was on a camping field trip near Sooke with a group of students from Lansdowne Middle School when the tree came crashing down on Wednesday afternoon. Emergency crews said winds in the area were blowing at up to 80 km/h at the time.
First responders arrived at the scene to find the boy trapped under the tree.
"He was unconscious and not breathing," Cpl. Dawn Gilhen of Sooke RCMP said in an update Thursday. "Life saving measures were performed on the teen by camp personnel and first responders but tragically the teen did not survive his injuries."
Ben Patterson of the Otter Point Fire Department told CTV News the students were out for a hike near the Jack Brooks fish hatchery when the tree snapped and fell. The winds were still going strong as emergency crews climbed steep wooded terrain to access the teen's location.
"We still had snapping trees around us," Patterson said. "Anytime when you go into the woods when it's windy out, you want to be cautious – you never know when a tree is coming down."
Though the RCMP and BC Coroners Service are still investigating the circumstances of what happened, Patterson said it appears to have been a "tragic, tragic accident" – one that would have been very hard to prevent.
The Grade 8 student was pronounced dead at the scene, while another boy was rushed to hospital with unconfirmed injuries. Officials said the second student has since been sent home to recover.
The unexpected tragedy sent shockwaves through communities on southern Vancouver Island. The Greater Victoria School District alerted parents through an email Wednesday evening, offering counselling and other support services for students, staff and parents alike.
The victim's middle school was open on Thursday, with a Critical Incident Response Team deployed to help people through their grief. Supt. Shelley Green said students tend to find comfort being around their peers and continuing with their daily routine.
"Everybody is absolutely highly impacted by news like this. You never want to hear of a tragedy of one of our children and our students," Supt. Shelley Green told CTV News Thursday morning. "All of our CIRT team are there in any way, shape, or form that they need support through these next days as they move forward."
Premier John Horgan offered condolences during a previously planned event on Thursday, lamenting the loss of such a young student during "what was supposed to be a joyous end to the school year."
"I just want to offer my sincere condolences to the family to those kids at Lansdowne who are grieving the loss of a friend," Horgan said.
The students were staying at Camp Bernard, a property owned by Scouts Canada that offers a variety of programs for children and young adults. John Petitti, executive director at Scouts Canada, said his understanding is that the accident happened "near camp."
"We wish to offer our sincere condolences to the families and to the Lansdown Middle School community," Petitti said in an email.
Despite the apparent circumstances, coroners have said they can't yet confirm the boy's death was caused by the tree. They are continuing to investigate along with the Sooke RCMP and Victoria school district.
Though the victim's name has not been released, Supt. Green said officials have been in touch with his family.
"They are working on trying to get through this tragic event," Green said. "We have certainly offered to support them any way we can."
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan and CTV News Vancouver Island