Tuesday, October 3, 2023


RVer Safety: Look up when you park

By Mike Sherman

We have talked about guns, the pros and cons of having one, shootings in state campgrounds (rangers killing bad guys and bad guys shooting at hikers), in addition to natural hazards that can invade our peaceful campsite like tornadoes or floods.

But there is also a silent killer that rears its ugly head from time to time, and we need a reminder to look up when we pull into our campsite. Are there dead trees around? Do the limbs look healthy? In this circumstance we are going to look at, the weather was not that great. This story is a heartbreaker.

Girl, 3, killed by falling tree branch at New Jersey campground, state police say
July 8, 2019 (Source: Fox News)
A three-year-old girl was killed after a tree branch fell at a campground in New Jersey on Saturday, striking the child, state police said. Investigators were still trying to determine what caused the tree branch to fall at the southern New Jersey campground but said strong storms were passing through Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, in Elmer, N.J., on Saturday, Sgt. First Class Jeff Flynn told Fox News.

Flynn said the girl has been identified as Ellys Martinez of the Bronx, N.Y., adding that she was inside a tent with other people when the tree branch fell. Police said the girl was rushed to a hospital, and doctors pronounced her dead soon after she arrived. “It’s an unusual circumstance where a tree branch falls on a child and kills a child,” Flynn told Fox News. “It’s just a tragedy.”

He added, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time.” A representative with Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. Flynn said no other injuries were reported.

Obviously the lesson here is don’t camp in a tent if the weather is getting ugly. We never know the condition or strength of trees around us, and the condition of the limbs. Our heart aches for the family of this little girl.

Spread the word … be safe … look up when parking.

Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.

Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at MikeShermanPI@gmail.com if you have questions, or leave a comment below. 

Read more RVer Safety articles here.



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Montgomery D Bonner
4 years ago

Took all the trees close to the house down, nothing closer than 100′. In GA, pines are the bad boys. We try to camp in spots with no trees over us. States need to trim trees in their state parks, we frequent Hard Labor Creek in GA annually, must go real slow in roads to park and in park, low hanging branches, slow, riding the brakes to keep it down wo 1-2 mph.

Vanessa Simmons
4 years ago

When I bought my house in Portland OR there was an evergreen in the back yard. It grew ginormous in a few years. I asked an arborist at work what it (bark, needles etc) was he said “giant sequoia, where did you get this?” I said my backyard he said “CUT IT DOWN IMMEDIATELY! They aren’t yard trees they need to be surrounded by other giants to interlock roots and hold them down.” Had it taken down. Just a few weeks later a pine tree a few blocks away fell on a house and killed an elderly lady in bed.

Be careful what you dig up in the woods and bring home to plant in your yard.

chris p hemstead
4 years ago

Tree trimming is about the last thing on most campgrounds’ maintenance list.

Leanne Hopkins
4 years ago

Last year we were in Alberta, BC where pine beetles had devastated the area. We camped in Jasper National Park. Almost the entire campground was dead and diseased trees (an accident waiting to happen from A good breeze and/or rain ). Our campsite and our cousin’s had not one live tree on it. We went to the check in area and explained we absolutely couldn’t camp in these spots. Turns out the park was due to be closed the year before because of the disease. We were told of a parking area we could use instead of the campground. Turns out it was a great campsite, in spite of it being concrete. The entire area was surrounded by grass, there was a playground, good views, and bathroom facilities. There were a few other campers there spaced around the area. We were very happy with our second choice.
British Columbia has done a wonderful job keeping the beetles away. This year we opted not to go into Alberta.

4 years ago

Shouldn’t a commercial campground have a record of proper inspection of their trees? This is not forest, city, state or national. It is a private, commercial, campground. Charging top dollar.

4 years ago

Great reminder, Mike. I cut 30 cord of firewood a year and deadheads and widowmakers are a quite familiar risk to me.

I travel with a pole-saw, hatchet, bow saw, and sometimes a chainsaw and/or 16′ ladder. MANY commercial sites have required the polesaw for branches that were hitting my roof, and park owners are usually thankful for the help even if they probably think I’m weirdly equipped. I DO ask first, but its my roof and I’m trimming trees for safety if I stay there, or leaving. Polesaw is also handy for fetching toys hung up in trees…

Jeff Arthur
4 years ago

I was at a state park campground when a cottonwood tree snapped in two about 40’ up . A man was killed but threw his two children to safety. It was not windy and tree trunk was solid at the break. Bought local newspaper next 2 days, no mention of the incident? Ask rangers about incident and was declined an answer. I don’t camp near large leaning trees or cottonwoods.

4 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Arthur

Sad story… I’ll agree cottonwoods are homicidal trees… I’ve had several snap erratically on my own land, or even shatter in revenge while I’m felling them. Like you, I wouldn’t linger under several tons of brittle wood. Heavy, not strong.

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