Falling Tree Kills 11-Year-Old Girl Scout

A naturally fallen decaying large tree. A shattered tree trunk can be seen in the foreground and a mixed forest in the background. The Bialowieza Forest is Europe's last primeval lowland forest that once covered entire northeastern Europe. This old-growth virgin forest, home to the European bison, was protected for centuries. It was devastated in 2017 by illegal large-scale logging with use of heavy equipment ordered by the Polish government. The Bialowieza Forest is a Special Area of Conservation of the EU Natura 2000 network of nature protection areas. The Bialowieza Forest National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Outstanding Universal Value (inscribed in 1979 and later extended as "Bialowieza Forest, Belarus, Poland").
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 01, 2019 3:00 PM

In a tragedy at Indiana's Camp Henry F. Koch, a young Girl Scout was killed by falling tree while she and others were hiking through the campground. The 11-year-old suffered fatal head and abdominal injuries and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

"They were there to have a good time," Perry County Sheriff Alan Malone said as he choked back tears at a press conference. "We're prepared for everything, but when you actually roll up on a scene -- it's hard, it's tough. Especially when a child is involved."

Life and Limbs

Camp Koch, according to the Girl Scouts website, "covers approximately 500 acres of rugged woodland in the hills along the Ohio River." It is a resident camp facility maintained and protected year-round by a resident ranger. Although the area had experienced frequent rainfall in recent weeks and it was raining when local deputies arrived at the scene, no severe weather or lightning reported in the vicinity at the time. Sheriff Malone said he couldn't be sure why the 40-foot tree fell when it did.

Another 10-year-old girl was treated for a hand injury after the incident, and two women, 50 and 55 years old, suffered serious injuries but were hospitalized in stable condition. "There is nothing we take more seriously than the safety and well-being of our girls and volunteers," the Girl Scouts said in a statement. "During this difficult time, the entire Girl Scout family mourns the loss of one of our girls, and we ask for privacy for the individuals and their families as they grieve and mourn this tragic loss."

Loss and Legal Liability

When such tragedies happen, it can be difficult to determine who is responsible. Under the legal theory of premises liability, entities that invite others onto their property or offers a service for money -- like parks that offer campsites -- can be held responsible for injuries that happen on the property. Therefore, they may be required to check for unseen risks, such as trees that may fall, and take steps to cut unstable trees down before they accidentally fall on an unsuspecting camper. Some data has suggested that as municipalities trim their tree-trimming budgets, the result is more injuries from falling limbs.

If you or a family member has been injured in a park, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn about your legal options.

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