The father of a teenager, killed on a camping trip when she was struck by a falling tree, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that organized the tour. The fatal accident took place near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Elizabeth Burns, a Lake Forest teenager, was helping to organize the campsite for a student camping trip in Wyoming’s Teton Wilderness, when a 75-foot tree fell and struck her. Witnesses said she did not regain consciousness.
The girl’s father, Michael Burns, filed a wrongful death suit in federal court against the commercial camping company that organized the trip, Wilderness Ventures.
According to the lawsuit, employees of the company were attempting to lift heavy bags of food into the tall branches of the tree, to prevent bear attacks, when the tree snapped, killing Burns.
The suit claims that the pine trees in the area had been weakened by insect infestation, and had shallow roots. Dead trees like the one that killed Burns are known colloquially as “widow makers,” according to the lawsuit, because they are likely to topple.
Wilderness Ventures placed a call for help, via satellite phone on July 18 at about 2:45 p.m. Rescuers traveled by helicopter to the campsite northeast of Jackson Hole, but Burns was declared dead at the scene by 4:35 p.m.
Blunt force trauma to Burns’ head was the likely cause of death, according to the Teton County Sheriff’s Department. Police said they are treating the case as an accident.
The camping group included 14 people: twelve 16-year-olds and two adult leaders. Park rangers transported the remaining members of the group to a park lodge, where crisis counselors met with them.