Tree that killed Lansdowne Middle School student appeared to have toppled in wind: RCMP

Gusting winds appeared to topple the tree that fell onto a 13-year-old boy, killing him, Sooke RCMP said Thursday.

A second boy who was hurt in the incident has been released from hospital and is resting at home, said Greater Victoria School District superintendent Shelley Green.

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The boy who died was a Grade 8 student at Lansdowne Middle School in Saanich, and was on a field trip with classmates at Camp Barnard near Sooke when the tree fell on him Wednesday afternoon.

RCMP said the case is now in the hands of the B.C. Coroners Service.

Coroners service spokesman Andy Watson said the official cause of death has yet to be determined.

Emergency crews arrived to find the boy trapped beneath the tree; he was unconscious and not breathing. Camp staff and first responders performed emergency measures but the youth was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sooke RCMP Cpl. Dawn Gilhen said the detachment’s thoughts are with the youth’s family and friends “as they grieve this very tragic incident.”

Summer break for schools starts next week. Green said the accident is “a very difficult, tragic end to the school year.”

She said Lansdowne students had just arrived for a three-day stay at Camp Barnard, which sits on a 100-hectare property and offers wilderness programs for youths and adults. A call for emergency help was made at 3:17 p.m. from an area near the Jack Brooks Hatchery.

A statement from Scouts Canada executive director John Petitti said the organization is deeply saddened by the death. Camp Barnard is a Scouts Canada property.

He said it is Scouts Canada’s understanding that the accident happened during a hike to the hatchery. “We wish to offer our condolences to the families and to the Lansdowne Middle School community.”

A group of students from Shoreline Middle School was also at the camp, but in a different area.

Both Lansdowne and Shoreline students were taken home Wednesday night.

Other planned trips to Camp Barnard have been cancelled, Green said. Also, students on a trip to Strathcona Park are returning to Victoria today, she said, while other trips are being looked at case by case. “We’re kind of handling them one step at a time.”

Many people sprang into action after the accident, Green said.

“When the accident happened, everything was deployed to not only deal with the situation but, of course, to inform families and make sure that our [emergency-response] team was there to support everybody and bring the children home.”

Green said the district’s emergency-response team is activated any time there is an accident or major incident. She said the team ensures people are supported “as they receive very tragic news.”

Team members, including teachers and counsellors, were at Lansdowne and Shoreline schools on Thursday, Green said.

The Sooke and Saanich school districts offered help, Green said. “Their emergency-response teams have offered assistance to our school district in any way that we need.”

She said there has been an outpouring of sympathy to the family involved, which is asking for privacy.

“Everybody has been respectful of that and is offering our support in any way, shape or form that we can.”

Premier John Horgan, whose riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca includes Camp Barnard, said on Twitter that his condolences go out to the family “and to those kids at Lansdowne Middle School who are grieving the loss of a friend at what was supposed to be a joyous end to the school year.”

Camp Barnard is busy during the summer, and is scheduled to have close to 3,000 visitors July 6-13 as Scouts Canada hosts the Pacific Jamboree.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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