A 45-year-old Quebec man died early Wednesday morning when a tree fell on his tent at Falcon Beach, RCMP say.
Emergency personnel went to the Beach Campground just before 2 a.m. after the tree fell during the severe storm that hit Manitoba overnight.
The visible damage in the campground is almost unnoticeable with just eight to 10 trees downed, according to conservation officials.
But, in what officials calls a ‘one in a million’ type incident, one of the trees fell on a tent while two people, a husband and wife, were inside.
“We heard this terrible noise.” Said Elsie Loewen of Steinbach, who was camping nearby when a neighbour ran up in a panic.
“And she said ‘ there’s a man trapped. A tree has fallen on the tent and this woman cannot speak English, she’s French, and she said we need help’.”
The tree was too large to budge. Loewen called 911. Emergency crews arrived. After fire crews cut apart the tree in pieces small enough to lift off the Montreal man, he was taken to hospital and pronounced dead; his 44-year-old wife, also from Montreal, was treated for minor injuries.
“I’ve been with the department now for 25 years and I have never experienced this kind of an incident, nor heard of one.” said Geoffrey Smith, a Manitoba Conservation Officer at Falcon Lake District Office.
Environment Canada said its nearest weather office, in Sprague, MB, recording peak gusts overnight of 37 knots or 69 km/h. A meteorologist with the weather office, Natalie Hasell, told Global News that is generally not powerful enough to topple trees, unless they are already weakened or dead. It does not necessarily mean that extreme wind gusts were not present, however, according to Hasell.
Campers told Global News they did not realize a severe storm had passed through.
“And that’s why we were so surprised that this big tree was uprooted like that.” Said camper Gerry Klassen of Steinbach.
Conservation officials said what makes the incident even more unusual is the uprooted tree was young and healthy. But a nearby restaurateur of seven years in Falcon Lake Beach Campground said it’s not the first time he’s seen trees falling there due to powerful wind.
“No, that happens in campgrounds all the time when they don’t maintain them properly. I mean, the trees need to be cut down more.” said Michael Walker, co-owner of Bakery Bistro.
Officials said park and maintenance crews routinely eliminate risk before and all throughout the camping season.