Northeast Campground Sued Over 2008 Flooding Death
The family of a 7-year-old girl killed in a flash flood at an Ashland, N.H., campground last year has brought a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the campground's owners.
Kaitlyn Ferra of Rhode Island was vacationing with her parents, Brandon and Donna Ferra, and her brother at Ames Brook Campground in August 2008 when heavy rains caused two brooks near their campsite to merge and quickly flood the area, according to the Concord Monitor.
Brandon Ferra tried to drive his family to safety, but a torrent of water hit the family's SUV, ejecting everyone but Kaitlyn. She drowned inside the vehicle, the lawsuit said.
Brandon and Donna Ferra allege the campground's owners, Vernon and Barbara Marion of Ashland, knew the Ferras' campsite had a propensity to flood. Despite that, the lawsuit says, the Manions failed to tell them about weather service warnings and did nothing to help them when other campers began evacuating the campground.
"These failures to alert the Ferras of their peril deprived them of their ability to escape," reads the lawsuit filed Friday (Sept. 18) by attorney Patrick Jones of Providence, R.I. Those failures, he continued, "were the direct and proximate cause of Kaitlyn Ferra's death and the injuries to her parents and brother."
The rest of the Ferra family suffered serious physical injuries and emotional distress, according to the lawsuit.
Vernon Marion said Monday that he hadn't received a copy of the lawsuit and did not know it had been filed. "It was quite a tragedy, and my heart goes out to them," he said. But he declined to comment further before reading the filing.
Jones declined comment because the lawsuit is pending. He did not request a specific amount of money for damages in the court filing.
Kaitlyn Ferra's death was reported in the local and national news in August 2008 when hers became the fourth storm-related drowning in the state in three weeks due to days of heavy rains, flash floods and unusually strong river currents.
Ferras' family says her life could have been spared had the Marions been more responsible, according to the lawsuit.
Donna Ferra found the Ames Brook Campground on the internet in late July and made a reservation for the family to arrive Aug. 6. After hearing reports of flooding in the area, Donna Ferra called the campground about noon Aug. 6 to cancel the reservation, the lawsuit said.
Donna Ferra agreed to keep the reservation, however, after Barbara Marion told her not to worry about the campground conditions, according to the lawsuit. The family arrived in Ashland about 7 p.m. and were assigned site 54, which could be accessed only by crossing Drew Brook, the lawsuit said.
Rain continued to fall the second day of the stay. The National Weather Service had issued flash flood warnings for the area, but the Marions never shared that with the Ferras, the lawsuit said.
They should have, according to the lawsuit, because Vernon Marion knew campsite 54 had flooded in the past.
According to a videotape obtained by the Ferras' lawyer, Vernon Marion told federal emergency officials shortly after Kaitlyn Ferra's death that the railroad tracks above site 54 had "blown out" before, flooding the campground, according to the lawsuit.
The Ferras spent Aug. 7 visiting a local attraction and returned to the campground about 5:30 p.m. They passed by the main office to get to their site, but the Marions didn't stop them to warn them of the flood watch, the lawsuit said.
A short time later, Vernon Marion visited the campsite next to the Ferras to investigate a sound of surging water, the lawsuit said. The Ferras were inside their camping trailer. Vernon Marion saw other families moving to higher ground but never alerted the Ferras, the lawsuit said.
Vernon Marion heard a second sound of surging water and investigated again, according to the lawsuit. That is when he saw Brandon Ferra trying to drive his wife and two young children to safety, the lawsuit said.
The Ferras' vehicle was swept downstream as Brandon Ferra tried to cross Drew Brook. Brandon and Donna Ferra and their 5-year-old son, Cameron, were ejected from the SUV.
Kaitlyn Ferra was trapped inside the SUV for more than an hour, according to news accounts of the incident.
A witness told the Boston Globe she had heard Brandon Ferra trying to save his family.
"The man was yelling, 'Help! Help my family,' " said Stacie Brown, 43, of Uncasville, Conn.
Firefighters found Donna Ferra standing in the middle of the brook clinging to a tree and holding her unconscious son, the Globe reported at the time. Brandon Ferra was found standing on the side of the brook.
All three were treated for injuries.