Editor's note: Updated with quotes from Gospel Chapel Senior Pastor Henry Klassen, Sarah Dalziel (camp cabin leader) and RDKB Area C Director Grace McGregor.
A Christina Lake boy at Pines Bible Camp in Grand Forks died after a tree fell through the cabin he was in on Friday (July 20).
According to the BC Coroners Service, Richard Fehr, 11, was attending the camp when a wind storm hit and the cabin he was in was crushed by a falling tree.
“At around 5 p.m. (on July 20) there was an incredible wind storm,” Pines Bible Camp Executive Director Gene Krahn told the Grand Forks Gazette on Friday night.
“A bunch of trees came down and fell on a lot of buildings, crushing some of them and unfortunately, there was one fatality. (Fehr) was unable to get out of the cabin. There was a cabin leader there that tried to get the camper out of the cabin and was unable to do so and (Fehr) died.”
Krahn said the cabin leader escaped with a minor injury on his head, all the other campers were fine and suffered only minor injuries as well.
“We’re pretty sad and devastated that this happened at a summer camp,” Krahn said. “We are incredibly sorry about the loss and our heart goes out to the family.”
Krahn visited Fehr’s family after the incident and said they were obviously distraught.
The campers had been swimming at a beach and were on their way up to the cabins and fortunately, a lot of them were not in the cabins.
Krahn said Fehr had just come up from the beach and said that he was changing and getting ready for supper.
Sarah Dalziel, a senior cabin leader at the bible camp, discussed what it was like when the winds hit.
“When the wind storm hit, I was walking up from the beach, so I was heading toward my cabin,” Dalziel explained. “I looked to the side and I saw the first three trees fall.”
She said that she ran to the back of a cabin and when she turned around she saw trees falling around fire pit.
Dalziel said that she had seen Fehr throughout the week at events such as campfires.
“Just (Thursday) he had teased me a bit during one of the games,” she said.
Krahn had praise for the bible camp staff, which he said was outstanding.
“They were able to get all the kids evacuated from the area safely and deal with injuries and things like that,” Krahn said. “We were able to take all the kids into the dining room and feed them supper.”
Along with the Gospel Chapel in Grand Forks, Pines Bible Camp is part of the B.C. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches and Gospel Chapel Senior Pastor Henry Klassen said that his heart went out to the family.
“I think that’s the most important thing we have to focus on is a life has been lost and our hearts go out to Doug and Amy Fehr (Richard’s parents). We’re very saddened at the loss and many people have been telling me about how their hearts are going out to the family,” said Klassen, adding that he was amazed at the community support.
Grace McGregor, Regional District of Kootenay Boundary Area C director, also said that the family had the condolences of the Christina Lake community; she informed people about the tragedy prior to a pancake breakfast as part of the Christina Lake Homecoming celebrations on Saturday.
“I did announce (Saturday) morning that (Fehr) was killed (Friday) night during the storm out at Pines Bible Camp and everyone is sending their sympathy out to the family and the whole community is affected by it,” said McGregor. “We know it was an accident but that never takes the hurt away.”
Pines Bible Camp is located approximately 8.5 kilometres from Grand Forks, up North Fork Road.
The BC Coroners Service continues to investigate Fehr’s death.