Boy killed when tree fell had shouted warning to friends

The 13-year-old boy killed on a camping expedition by a falling tree shouted to warn his friends just before he was struck, his father said.

Graham Caverhill said police told him his son, Tai, managed to yell out a warning to his friends just before the falling tree came down on him.

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“I console myself that it’s tragic, but there is nobody to blame because the boys were just being boys out doing what boys should be doing,” said Caverhill.

“They were in the woods, exploring and having a great time. They weren’t sitting at home on their phones.

“Tai was with his friends and he yelled out to help them.”

Tai Caverhill, a Grade 8 student at Lansdowne Middle School, died on Thursday during a three-day school outing to Camp Barnard near Sooke. Gusting winds are suspected of knocking over a tree, which fell onto him. When emergency workers arrived, they found him not breathing. Despite resuscitation attempts, Tai was pronounced dead at the scene.

Immediately, Lansdowne Middle School cancelled the camping trip and other camp outings that were planned.

The Greater Victoria School District has said other camping trips will be reconsidered.

Premier John Horgan, whose riding includes Camp Barnard, passed on condolences to the Caverhill family and to the Lansdowne Middle School community.

Students and teachers at Lansdowne Middle School have responded with a huge outpouring of grief and sympathy for the Caverhill family.

Tai’s two little-league coaches from years past were among those who turned out to offer sympathy to the family.

Caverhill said he’s not surprised by the response, since Tai’s personality made him a friend to everyone he met. While it’s the sort of thing that always seems to be said, it was true in his son’s case, Caverhill said. “Wherever Tai went, he seemed to touch people. I don’t know what he had, but it just seemed to attach to people.”

Caverhill remembers returning Tai to school in Grade 2 or 3 after a short absence for a dentist appointment. On seeing him, the entire playground erupted, he said. “It was like the whole schoolyard came up and swarmed him, hugging him and laughing,” he said. “Kids don’t do that for everybody.”

With high school approaching, Caverhill said, Tai had applied to attend Oak Bay High School to join friends from Lansdowne. But it meant leaving his catchment area and other friends headed for Reynolds Secondary.

“He’s got a little crew from the neighbourhood that he’s known since kindergarten and he asked one what he thought,” said Caverhill. “The friend said: ‘Dude, it doesn’t matter because we are going to be friends for life and it won’t make any difference which school you choose, because we love you.’ ”

Tai was the older of two children of Caverhill and his Thai wife, Boom. The couple also have a 10-year-old daughter, Lanna. The family attended a Buddhist memorial service on Sunday.

A fundraising page has been set up by the Thai Kids Club of Victoria.

According to the page, Lanna lives with tuberous sclerosis, a disorder that causes the growth of benign tumors on the brain and other organs. She has had surgery.

“If Tai was still with us, he would be one of the main supports for Lanna,” says the fundraising page. Money raised is to be split, with half going to the Caverhills and the other half as a donation to Tuberous Sclerosis Canada in Tai’s name.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

> Fundraising page: gofundme.com/in-loving-memory-of-tai

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