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Tree considered safe causes accident, 11-year-old girl killed

Going on a family camping trip should be lots of fun. When you are heading out to a campground managed by the Department of Natural Resources, you probably assume that you are going to a place that is reasonably safe. One of the last things you should have to worry about is falling tree limbs, especially when you consider that Wisconsin state law demands that all trees be inspected twice per year for safety. Sadly, however, these inspections don't necessarily mean that you can camp without worrying about being injured by one of these trees.

Recently, an 11-year-old girl was killed at Ice Age Campground while she was sleeping. The girl, her father, and brother were camping on the north side of the lake at Devil's Lake State Park when wind apparently knocked over a towering oak.

The park supervisor says that some roots were broken and pulled from the ground. When the tree fell, it sheared off another tree approximately 15 feet from the ground. A branch from that tree, which had a diameter of around 9 inches, fell onto the family's tent and killed the girl.

The girl's brother managed to escape from the tent, but the father and daughter were pinned in the tent. The limb had to be cut with a chainsaw to be removed. The father and brother survived the accident.

Roots from the tree were grown over a boulder. The park supervisor said that might have left the tree with a loose grip on the soil. He theorizes that the thunderstorm prior to the accident weakened the roots enough for the wind gust to topple it over. While records aren't kept from tree inspections, it is reported that the trees at the campground were checked last in October, and the tree was thought to be safe.

What should have been a fun family trip ended in tragedy for this family. They may decide to seek compensation for this young girl's death. Knowing how to pursue claims for damages might make the process less stressful.

Source: Wisconsin State Journal, "Tree that caused girl's death at Devil's Lake appeared sound, DNR says" Steven Verburg, Jun. 02, 2014

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