GATLINBURG, Tenn. – A 7-year-old girl from Georgia was killed early Wednesday when a tree fell on a tent in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where she was camping with her family, park officials said.
According to a news release from the National Parks Service, a large red maple tree measuring 2 feet in diameter fell on the tent in the Elkmont Campground at about 12:30 a.m. EDT. The girl was not identified, WSB-TV reported. Other family members, including the girl’s father and two siblings, were not injured.
The Elkmont Campground is on the Tennessee side of the park about eight miles from Gatlinburg, according to the Asheville Citizen Times.
“Dying because of a tree falling on you is incredibly rare in and of itself. This is the first recorded time that we have ever had anybody die because of a tree that fell on their tent in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” Dana Soehn, a spokesperson for the NPS, told WVLT-TV.
Soehn said there had been other incidents where people were killed by falling trees, but it was the first time a fatality involved a tent.
“The other ones were primarily related to a motor vehicle accident where a tree fell while somebody was driving along one of our scenic roadways, or it was related to somebody hiking along the trail,” Soehn told WVLT.
In January, a 7-year-old girl was killed when a tree fell on a rental cabin in Townsend, Tennessee, located outside the national park, WATE-TV reported.
In June, a 45-year-old man was killed on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, when a large American beech tree fell on the car he was driving, the Citizen Times reported. The man’s wife and two sons were injured, according to the newspaper.
The last time someone died in the park because of a falling tree occurred in 2019, WVLT reported. The tree fell on a vehicle during a heavy rainstorm at The Spur, according to the television station. The Spur is part of the Foothills Parkway on the Tennessee side of the mark, according to the NPS.
The Elkmont Campground is the “largest and busiest campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” according to Recreation.gov.
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