Three teenage boys were taken to hospital July 24 after a violent storm erupted near their campground in Bottrel, resulting in a large tree falling onto their tent.
According to Stuart Brideaux, a public education officer with Alberta EMS, the incident occurred shortly before 4:45 p.m.
“We received a 911 call from the Bottrel General Store and Campground that three teen males camping in the area had sustained injuries when a tree blew over onto their tent, during what was described as quite a violent storm,” he said.
Upon arrival, Brideaux said EMS and fire crews from Cochrane, Carstairs and Calgary were directed to the incident site, where one of the patients – a 17-year-old – was still trapped under a tree.
“With further assistance from bystanders, we were able to free him,” he said. “The other two patients, boys in their mid-teens, fortunately were not trapped but still sustained injuries when the tree fell.”
The three injured boys included two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old. According to Brideaux, the eldest was transported to Foothills Medical Centre in serious condition, “but otherwise stable and non-life-threatening,” with multiple tramautic injuries.
The other two male patients were each taken to Alberta Children’s Hospital in stable condition, he added, with various muscular-skeletal injuries.
“The reports received, by all indications, are that it was a sudden violent storm with incredibly powerful winds and hail,” Brideaux said. “Multiple trees either fell or were partially succumbed in this storm. This one tree did fall, in particular, on the site where they were camping.”
Tim Needham, the manager of the Bottrel Campground, said it was a normal day, until the storm started coming in.
"We were watching it out the window,” he said “It moved in really fast and everything just went white. My daughter was at the back of the house, looking out the picture window in the living room. It just came through like a freight train.
"She screamed, 'Oh my goodness! There are trees down in the back, on the campground on the tent side.’ I knew we had one group of tenters there, so we got dressed and had to run out the door.”
Needham said he, his daughter and his brother Duane raced to the area, where they came across the three boys, two of whom were still underneath the tent. They managed to remove a branch that was pinning one of the injured boys and cut the tarp that was on top of them. He added the other youth was assisted once emergency crews and ambulances arrived.
He added it was fortunate the campground did not have many occupied campsites that day.
"It was really good luck that everyone else had left prior to that, because I had about 35 people over there the day before,’ he said.
According to Needham, the campground, which first opened in 1889, is still covered with felled trees, some of which were 70 or 80 feet tall. Because the site is owned by Rocky View County, he added the County will be responsible for subcontracting a company to do the tree removal.
"Trees were down everywhere,” he said. “Huge trees were uprooted with the tops snapped off, 30 feet up in the air.
"The trees themselves, there are about four trees that are probably 70 or 80 feet tall, snapped off about 20 feet up.”
2020 mark’s Needham's 18th season as the campground's manager. While he said the area is prone to annual flooding and the occasional thunderstorm, he said he'd never seen a storm like the one July 24.
"We're fairly close to the mountains, so there’s usually not that much time [for a storm] to build up,” he said.
"That was a rare one. We have floods every year from the creek [overflowing] with rainwater, but nothing like that."