A man has been killed after a tree reportedly fell on him while he was in his tent on a remote wilderness campsite.
The incident occurred on the evening of Aug. 30 at Olympic National Park — a 120 mile drive from Seattle, Washington — when authorities received notice that there had been a visitor fatality at Elk Lake, a hiker-only trail in the park, according to a statement released by the National Park Service.
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“It was 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 disclose how long Bernier-Villeneuve had been in the park for or where he was from in Canada.
The National Park Service reached the victim by helicopter the next morning on Aug. 31 and transferred his body to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office.
This is an undated trail sign at the beginning of the Elk Lakes Trail in Olympic National Park in Washington.Washington Trails Association / Photo by Salal
It is not immediately clear what caused the tree to fall in the first place or if he was in a treacherous area at the time of his death.
The Washington Trails Association’s website reports that the Elk Trail, where Bernier-Villeneuve had been traversing, suffered severe damage in the 2018 Maple Fire and said that “the fire burned both organic material and the root systems of nearby trees. This has left numerous holes and gaps in the tread.”
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Olympic National Park encompasses “nearly a million acres,” according to the National Park Service. “The park protects a vast wilderness, thousands of years of human history, and several distinctly different ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rain forests, and over 70 miles of wild 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 the state of Washington.