Father Drives Over Family Tent in State Park

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July 10, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Police are investigating what is believed to be an accident that occurred early Wednesday (July 8) at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Norton Shores, Mich., when the father of two toddlers ran over a tent where his children and wife were sleeping, according to the Muskegon (Mich.) Chronicle

The incident happened around 6 a.m. inside the camping area at the park, said Norton Shores Police Lt. Jon Gale. The park is located on Lake Michigan, south of Muskegon. 

Gale said details were still being compiled by investigators this morning, but it appears that a father of a boy and girl, under the age of 3, and his wife have been camping at the park for the past two weeks. 

It was unclear whether the family was from the Muskegon area. 

Gale said the morning was particularly chilly so the father wanted to warm up the family sport utility vehicle. He intended on letting the vehicle run until it was warm enough to put his family inside, Gale said. 

But somehow, while inside the vehicle, the father apparently "fell asleep" and the vehicle rolled forward and "ran over the tent and ran over the kids," Gale said. 

One child was airlifted to Spectrum Health Hospital in Grand Rapids, Gale said. It was unclear if the other child was severely injured. 

The wife is said to be OK, but sustained some injuries as well, Gale said. 

The family had been staying with relatives in Muskegon for a while, prior to camping at the park, Gale said. 

A woman staying at the closest nearby campsite said she could not sleep early Wednesday morning before the incident. She heard the motor of the family's vehicle running but thought nothing of it because the family had been running the Ford Explorer other nights to shine headlights on the site, recharge the battery and use the heat. 

Then the woman heard the crash of the tent coming down as the SUV ran over it. She heard the father screaming, "Oh my God! Who did I hit?" 

She grabbed her shoes and cell phone and ran to the campsite. The woman, who asked not to be identified, called 911 for the family. 

Another nearby camper, Cindy Kaczmarczyk, said she heard a noise, followed by yells and a child crying. However, she said it sounded like a "domestic issue." 

Then she heard the father shout that they needed an ambulance and shouts of, "Breathe! I want you to breathe!" 

Kaczmarczyk, a respiratory therapist from Hastings, jumped up and rushed to the campsite. The parents were hysterical. The young daughter appeared to be OK, Kaczmarczyk said. 

Boy Was Alert and Crying 

The father was screaming, huddled over his son. The boy had a large bruise on the left side of his face that stretched down to his neck, Kaczmarczyk said. 

The boy was alert, talking coherently and crying, Kaczmarczyk said. She said those were "good signs," but she did not know the extent of his injuries, which could potentially be internal. 

The wife was limping and said her face hurt, according to Kaczmarczyk. 

The father explained to Kaczmarczyk that he had been in the car eating pudding when he fell asleep. 

Kaczmarczyk, who was camping with her two kids and their dog, said the family appeared to be struggling financially. 

"It's been so cold at night, and it sounds like they're living here," Kaczmarczyk said. "They don't have much." 

"It's not their fault. Bad things happen to them. We have to help them." 

It was the second camping accident involving a vehicle in the Midwest in less than a week. 

A 4-month-old infant was killed Sunday in a campground in Minnesota when a motorist drove over a tent housing a family camping inside.

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