Parents speak out after tragedy at River Valley Ranch

MANCHESTER, Md. - They're moving from crisis mode into recovery.  Officials at River Valley Ranch Wednesday started cleaning up the storm damage that killed a 12-year-old boy. .

Heavy winds from a fast-moving storm sent about 20 trees toppling Tuesday night.  A 12-year-old boy was killed and 8 others were injured.  Camp workers said two of those children are still in the hospital in serious condition.

The wild weather hit the camp around 7 p.m. Tuesday night.  We're told about 114 campers under the age of 12 were at an outdoor pavilion and had to take a wooded trail nearly 150 yards to get inside.  Emergency crews say trees started snapping and landing on the children.  Officials have not released many details about the boy who died.       



"Talked to the mother, she lost her son and she's sad and probably will never be the same,” said River Valley Ranch Executive Director Jon Bisset.

Camp workers say their hearts are heavy and they're praying for the families of the children involved.

When the tragedy happened, most parents came and picked up their children from Fort Roller and Arrowhead Woods.  Families were back Wednesday night for a meeting with camp officials to talk about what happened. 

"We’re overwhelmed by their support and understanding of the difficult situation," Bisset said.

They grabbed blankets, bags and clothes and then got to see the destruction from the storm first hand.  Re-living what their little ones went through.

"They kind of understand what’s going on but it fully hasn’t connected yet," said mom Catherine Lemaire.

Her 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son were right in the middle of the chaos.

"He did see some of the other kids who were stuck as they were trying to move trees and such."

But she's quick to add her kids still felt safe.  And says the staff did a wonderful job handling the situation, a feeling other parents echoed.

"They’re doing very well,” mom Caryn Mitchell said.  “River Valley Ranch is reaching out to all the families; they’re being very supportive of us offering counseling if needed."

The violent storm hit three days into the week-long camp.  Officials are offering a refund or letting campers come back another week.

"This is a family, once you come here you want to come back because they love on you and love on your kids and we trust them with our children,” Mitchell said.

Fort Roller and Arrowhead Woods will remain closed the rest of the week but will be back open Sunday.  Many parents are planning to bring their children back Sunday so they can get together and help each other through this

"It’s a nightmare but the idea is there are some circumstances you can’t change and this was one of those,” Lemaire said. “I think we’re all just kind of lucky to have our kids home"

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