Grade 8 student dies after being trapped under fallen tree at Vancouver Island wilderness camp

A middle school student has died after being trapped under a fallen tree during a field trip at a wilderness camp in the south end of Vancouver Island on Wednesday afternoon, RCMP say.

The 13-year-old boy had been at Camp Barnard near Sooke, B.C., with his classmates from Victoria's Lansdowne Middle School on the first day of a three-day trip.

Emergency crews, including an air ambulance, were called to the camp just after 3:30 p.m. PT and found the boy unconscious and not breathing.

"We were informed that the student tragically lost his life," said Shelley Green, superintendent of the Greater Victoria School District.

The tree is believed to have fallen due to sustained high winds in the area over the past few days, said Capt. Ben Patterson of the Otter Point Volunteer Fire Department.

RCMP won't comment on the cause of death as it is still under investigation. The boy was found in a trench-like hole under the tree with other forest debris around him. 

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BC Emergency Health Services said a second student was taken to hospital in critical but stable condition. On Thursday, Green said that student had been released.

Scouts Canada owns the Camp Barnard property. Its executive director, John Petitti, said the association is "deeply saddened" by the student's death and offered condolences to his family.

In an email Thursday, Petitti said it's Scouts' understanding that the boy died during a hike.

'Saddened by the loss'

Green said the deceased student's name is being withheld at his family's request. She said counsellors are being made available to students and staff.

"It is with deep regret that we inform you about a recent loss to our learning community," Green wrote in a letter posted to the school district's website late Wednesday.

"We are saddened by the loss to our school community."

Green said there were other students from a different school at the camp at the time the student died and that they were taken home Wednesday night.

Other students from Lansdowne are still on overnight camping trips at other sites. The superintendent said those trips will continue and students will be informed about the death as they come home, though their teachers and administrators have been made aware.

Green said the district will conduct a review of what happened.

Any time there's such a tragedy, "we go through that whole process of reviewing everything because, ultimately, our number 1 concern is always safety," she said during a phone interview Thursday morning.

Camp Barnard is on Otter Point, west of Sooke, a municipality west of Victoria.

The camp, on the shores of Young Lake, is used year-round by youth and adult organizations for camping and day activities.

The BC Coroner's Service is investigating.