Falling tree kills man while in tent at remote wilderness campsite

A man has been killed after a tree reportedly fell on him while he was in his tent at a remote backcountry campsite.

The incident happened on the evening of August 30 at Olympic National Park – a 120-mile drive from Seattle, Washington – when authorities were notified there had been a visitor fatality at Elk Lake, a trail restricted to hikers in the park, according to a statement released by the National Park Service.

“It has been reported that a tree fell on a tent while it was occupied by a 34-year-old Canadian citizen named Thomas Bernier-Villeneuve,” authorities said. They did not reveal how long Bernier-Villeneuve had been in the park or where he was from in Canada.

The National Park Service reached the victim by helicopter the next morning of August 31 and transferred his body to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office.

It’s not immediately clear what caused the tree to fall in the first place or if it was in a dangerous area at the time of its death.

The Washington Trails Association website reports that the Elk Trail, where Bernier-Villeneuve had crossed, suffered severe damage in the 2018 Maple Fire and said “the fire burned both the organic matter and the root systems of nearby trees. This left many holes and holes in the tread.”

Olympic National Park spans “nearly one million acres,” according to the National Park Service. “The park protects vast wilderness, thousands of years of human history, and several distinctly different ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains, ancient temperate rainforests, and more than 70 miles of rugged coastline.”

The park was designated by UNESCO as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976 and a World Heritage Site in 1981. It is the largest wilderness area in Washington State.

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