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Tenth Suit Filed over Fatal Campground Flood

January 4, 2013 by · Comments Off on Tenth Suit Filed over Fatal Campground Flood 

A man whose parents and young son were among 20 people killed in a devastating flood at a southwest Arkansas campground in 2010 is now among survivors who are suing the U.S. Forest Service, which failed to warn people they were in danger.

Anthony Shumake filed suit in U.S. District Court in Texarkana, Ark., last week, where all but one of 10 court actions are being heard.

The Texarkana Gazette reports the one suit in the Eastern District of Texas may be moved to Texarkana.

Shumake’s parents, Robert and Wilene Shumake of DeKalb, Texas, and his son, Nicholas Shumake, were killed in the flood which surprised unsuspecting campers early on June 11, 2010.

His lawsuit claims the Forest Service ignored the Albert Pike Campground’s history of flooding when building the recreation area.

Click here to read an earlier report on the tragic flood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venue Changed in Ark. Campground Flood Suit

September 19, 2012 by · Comments Off on Venue Changed in Ark. Campground Flood Suit 

A federal judge says that lawsuits over the deadly 2010 flash flooding at Albert Pike campground in Arkansas should be heard in Texarkana.

Texarkana Gazette reports that U.S. District Judge Donald Walter signed an order last week transferring two cases from Shreveport, La., into the Texarkana division of the Western District of Arkansas

Several civil lawsuits have been filed by relatives of the 20 people killed in the flash floods at the campground. The suits all cite negligence on the part of the U.S. Forest Service as the cause for the deaths.

The government has filed motions to dismiss many of the cases, claiming the suits are barred under Arkansas’ recreational use statute and by sovereign immunity.

RV Park and Campground Briefs

July 16, 2012 by · Comments Off on RV Park and Campground Briefs 

ARKANSAS

From the Associated Press:

An 11th lawsuit has been filed over the deaths of 20 people in the flooding of the Albert Pike Campground in southwestern Arkansas.

The Texarkana Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/MvStzd) that the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Texarkana, Ark., alleges “malicious and willful” neglect on the part of the U.S. Forest Service in the death of 38-year-old Eric Wayne Sultz of Nash, Texas.

The government has asked that the lawsuits be dismissed — claiming it has sovereign immunity and that state law protects it against claims filed by survivors and families of flood victims.

The victims from Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas drowned after heavy rain fell the night of June 10, 2010, and the Little Missouri River rose from three to more than 20 feet in a matter of hours.

ALBERTA

From cbc.ca:

Alberta’s provincial campgrounds are getting a $24 million facelift this season.

The Alberta government is spending the money this year to modernize several of its campgrounds, as the number of people using holiday trailers steadily outnumbers the tents, cbc.ca reported.

The province’s improvements include adding power and water hookups to its campgrounds, adding nicer washrooms and bigger sites for RVs, says Katrina Bluetchen of Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation.

“We’re interested in keeping pace with what campers are interested in. So, for us, that’s meant making some changes to our parks,” says Bluetchen.

Last long weekend, provincial reservations were up 25 percent from the year before.

OREGON

From the East Oregonian:

Hermiston City Council may consider a tax on hotel, motel and RV park stays in order to fund a marketing campaign for the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center, the EOTEC Authority chairman announced Friday.

Chairman Ed Brookshier, also the Hermiston city manager, said he would wait on an OK from the EOTEC hotel and marketing subcommittee before bringing the tax proposal to the Hermiston City Council on July 23. If approved, the tax would take effect Aug. 1. Brookshier said he expects to hear from the subcommittee by July 20.

NEVADA

From the Las Vegas Sun:

The campgrounds, trails and picnic areas of Mount Charleston will begin receiving makeovers throughout the summer, which will leave many of them closed for construction, U.S. Forest Service officials said in a release.

Officials said plans include adding picnic spots, improving gathering spaces and building new pathways among other improvements for visitors to enjoy. Construction will take place at Cathedral Rock Picnic Area, Desert View Overlook, Kyle Canyon Campground and Lovell Canyon Road.

Officials said Cathedral Rock Picnic Area is currently closed and will reopen in early 2014. They plan to add 68 picnic spots, two group picnic spots, a new gathering space, water system and toilet facilities. They also said there would also be a larger parking area for easier access.

Kyle Canyon Campground will be the next to close on July 21 to renovate the picnic area and won’t reopen again until 2013, officials said. Officials said the entire northern end of Lovell Canyon Road after mile 6 will be closed for a month beginning after Labor Day.

Desert View Overlook along Deer Creek Highway will also receive more accessible parking and a 1,100-foot-long pathway taking visitors through the vistas along the valley.

ARIZONA

From azcentral.com:

One man was hospitalized after lightning struck a tree at the Knoll Lake Campground about 90 miles from Flagstaff, Coconino County officials said.

Thunderstorms rolled through the area Friday afternoon (July 13) and a significant amount of lightning was reported around the campground, said Brady Smith, public information officer for the Coconino National Forest.

The man was reportedly alert and conscious when medical personnel arrived, officials said. He was injured after lightning struck a tree in the area, but his injuries were not specified.

The injured man was taken to a hospital by Guardian Medical Transport, officials said.

From azcentral.com:

Campgrounds in the Tonto National Forest and Kaibab National Forest reopened on July 14 after officials decided to lift fire restrictions.

The Houston Mesa and Horse Camp campgrounds at the Tonto National Forest reopened at 6 a.m. on Saturday, forest officials said. The area was closed after a series of fires broke out in the area on June 21.

All other parts of the Tonto National Forest’s temporary fire closure still remain in effect.

 

 

 

 

Another Suit Filed in 2010 Albert Pike Campground Flood

April 13, 2012 by · Comments Off on Another Suit Filed in 2010 Albert Pike Campground Flood 

A southwest Arkansas man whose wife and 3-year-old son were killed in a 2010 flood at a campground in western Arkansas is suing the federal government, saying the U.S. Forest Service should have warned campers of the danger.

Adam Jez, 28, of Foreman, filed the lawsuit Wednesday (April 11) in U.S. District Court, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. In the suit, Jez claims the Albert Pike Campground – now closed – had a documented history of flooding and that Forest Service officials neglected to post signs and take other steps to warn of the danger along the Little Missouri River.

On June 11, 2010, the river left its banks after a thunderstorm stalled over the Ouachita Mountains, which drain into the river. The campground, located in a ravine along the Little Missouri, flooded rapidly. A torrent that was more than 7 feet deep swept away tents, trucks, RVs and cement and asphalt pads.

Jez’s wife, 23-year-old Leslie Jez, and their son Kaden Jez were among the 20 people who died in the flood. Survivors were stranded in trees for hours.

Ashdown attorney Mickey Buchanan, who filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Texarkana on Adam Jez’s behalf, said he hopes the government is willing to settle.

“At this point, we’ve, gathered all the information we can. I think the facts are all there – the government’s investigation and report cites a lot of information. We have filed our claim. We’re waiting for their response and (will) see if we can resolve this,” Buchanan said.

The lawsuit says that on the morning of the flood, Adam Jez awoke between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. to find rushing water up to the door of the family’s camper, which soon began to float. The Jez and Wade families were still inside.

“Jez held onto his wife Leslie, who was clutching their son. Sheri Wade and Randall Wade were with them,” the lawsuit states. “The family managed to stay together in the roiling water and pouring rain by holding onto anything they could, while dodging trees, limbs, vehicles and other debris in the pitch black.”

“Because of the force of the rising current, however, the family eventually lost their footing and became separated. Neither Adam Jez nor Randall Wade saw the other three again once they were separated,” the lawsuit states.

Leslie Jez’s mother, 46-year-old Sheri Wade, of Ashdown, also died.

Forest Service spokesman Tracy Farley said she couldn’t comment because the agency doesn’t discuss matters under litigation.

The Forest Service investigated the circumstances surrounding the deadly flood and issued a scathing report in October 2010 that concluded the best way to have prevented flooding deaths at the site would have been to have never built the campground.

The lawsuit says the Forest Service was negligent in not warning the campers when the weather became severe and by not posting signs that the area was prone to flooding, despite a history of flooding there as far back as 1940.

The lawsuit also cites the lack of available communications as part of the Forest Service’s negligence. Rescuers weren’t immediately dispatched, and it took four days for them to find the last of the bodies.

The suit seeks damages for the wrongful deaths of Jez’s wife and son, but doesn’t list a dollar amount.

Several other lawsuits have also been filed by other people who lost family members in the flood. The victims included people from Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

 

 

Another Suit Filed Over 2010 Campground Tragedy

April 4, 2012 by · Comments Off on Another Suit Filed Over 2010 Campground Tragedy 

Another wrongful-death lawsuit has been filed against the U.S. Forest Service over flash flooding at the Albert Pike campground that killed 20 people in 2010.

The suit was filed last week by Gay Cunningham Moss and Swan Moss III, The Associated Press reported. Their daughter, 7-year-old Gayble Moss, died in the flooding. Gayble had been camping with her friend, Kylee Sullivan, and Kylee’s family at the Albert Pike campground in June 2010.

Kylee and her grandmother also died in the floods.

The campground is located about 75 miles west of Little Rock.

The Texarkana Gazette reports that the lawsuit accuses the government of negligence, claiming the U.S. Forest Service did not adequately warn campers of the flood danger at the campground.

The Forest Service said it had not yet been served with a copy of the complaint.

 

RV Park and Campground Briefs

March 9, 2012 by · Comments Off on RV Park and Campground Briefs 

MINNESOTA

From The Associated Press:

Having taken lumps over last summer’s government shutdown, Minnesota lawmakers are considering ways to take the sting out of any future budget standoffs.

A Senate committee was set to consider a cluster of bills that would make various state functions shutdown-proof. State colleges would be assured their continued funding, campgrounds and the zoo would remain open and road work would go on.

A budget feud between Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton led to a nearly three week government shutdown last summer. While a court ordered the state to keep some programs going, many offices were dark until a new budget was adopted.

Some people worry, however, that taking noticeable consequences out of a shutdown will reduce pressure on lawmakers to reach timely budget deals.

TENNESSEE

From WBIR-TV, Knoxville:

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be starting opening campgrounds on a staggered basis starting toiday (March 9).

Camping fees range from $14 to $23 per site per night.

For more information on national park openings visit www.recreation.gov.

ARKANSAS

From The Associated Press:

A lawsuit against the federal government filed by Louisiana family members of three of the 20 people killed in a flood at a U.S. Forest Service campground in southwest Arkansas has been dropped.

Federal court records show the suit was dismissed on Feb. 21 at the request of the estate of Kay Roeder, Deborah Roeder and Bruce Roeder.

The family members from Luling, La., died June 11, 2010, when a raging flood on the Little Missouri River swept away tents, RVs and other vehicles in the early morning darkness with no warning at the Albert Pike U.S. Forest Service campground.

The Roeder estate withdrew the suit after the government argued it was immune from being sued.

The judge dismissed the suit without prejudice, meaning the estate can file again.

 

USGS Issues Report on 2010 Flood at Albert Pike Campground

November 2, 2011 by · Comments Off on USGS Issues Report on 2010 Flood at Albert Pike Campground 

Floodwaters that killed 20 people at a remote Arkansas campground last year reached about 7 feet deep in the nearby floodplain and flowed at speeds up to 7.5 mph, according to a report released today (Nov. 2) by the U.S Geological Survey.

“You couldn’t stand up in it, and it was flowing pretty fast,” said Robert Holmes, a national flood specialist who was a co-author of the report about the deadly flood at the Albert Pike Recreation Area in southwest Arkansas, the Boston Globe reported

Seven children and 13 adults died in the flooding, which came when a storm system dumped a tremendous amount of rain on the remote valley in the Ouachita Mountains early on June 11, 2010. As much as 4.7 inches of rain fell in three hours in the upper Little Missouri River watershed.

Worried forecasters sent warnings four times in a single hour to advise people of the potential for flash flooding. But those warnings, issued in the middle of the night, never reached vacationing families in the remote campground in the floodwaters’ path. The camp had no ranger on-site, no cell phone service and no sirens, and deputies at the nearest sheriff’s departments were at least an hour’s drive away.

Those who died were from Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. The flash flood also tumbled over recreational vehicles and ripped away tents.

After the flood, the U.S. Forest Service said officers would drive into the campground during bad weather and warn people that the river could flood.

Since there wasn’t a stream gage to measure the depths and flows of the stream at the campground, the U.S. Geological Survey sent a team of scientists to study the flow and height of the water. They used high-water markings and the contours of the land to determine depths and speeds of the flood at the campground.

At Albert Pike, the peak flow for the Little Missouri River was 40,100 cubic feet per second, the report said.

“As narrow as that stream is, that’s a lot,” said John Robinson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office at North Little Rock.

About nine miles downstream, at a stream gage near Langley, Ark., water was flowing at about 70,800 cubic feet per second. In comparison, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issues small craft advisories at 70,000 on the Arkansas River, which is a much larger body of water.

Suit Filed Over 2010 Albert Pike Campground Flood

August 26, 2011 by · Comments Off on Suit Filed Over 2010 Albert Pike Campground Flood 

The families of three victims of the deadly 2010 flood at Albert Pike Recreation Area and Campground in Arkansas have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the United States of America, KTHV-TV, Little Rock, reported.

The suit, Roeder et al v. United States of America, was filed on Aug. 4 in the U.S. District Court Western District of Arkansas. The wrongful death lawsuit alleges negligence on behalf of the United States Forest Service.

On June 9, 2010, the Roeder family, from Luling, La., gathered at Albert Pike Recreation Area Campgrounds for their annual summer vacation. The park is located about 75 miles west of Little Rock. While some of the family members set up in tents, Esther Kay Roeder, Bruce Roeder, his wife Deborah Roeder, and their daughter Tara Roeder, took their recreational vehicle to Loop D, where there was access to electricity.

A powerful storm system made its way to the Albert Pike Campgrounds in the early hours of June 11, 2010. It dumped nearly 7 inches of rain on the area, triggering a flash flood. Just before dawn, while campers were sound asleep, the Little Missouri River overran its banks into the campgrounds.

Inside the Roeder RV, Tara Roeder awoke around 3 a.m. because the camper was rocking. She roused her parents and grandmother, and when they looked outside, water was just about to come in the door of the camper. Within seconds, something – possibly a vehicle – slammed into the side of the camper. It started floating and rolling over. The family tried to walk up the side of the camper to right it, but it was no use. There was another powerful impact, and the camper imploded. All four Roeders – Esther Kay Roeder, 69; Bruce Roeder, 51; Deborah Roeder, 52; and Tara Roeder, 30 – were pulled into the roiling water and pouring rain during the pitch black of early morning.

Tara Roeder survived by clinging to a tree for more than two hours. Esther Kay, Bruce and Deborah all perished in the flood, along with 17 other people. About 60 of the estimated 200 to 300 campers at Albert Pike that weekend were rescued.

Tara Roeder, the daughter of Bruce and Deborah Roeder, and Theresa Roeder, the daughter of Esther Kay Roeder, filed the lawsuit on behalf of their family members. Attorneys Jim Freeman, Melody Piazza and Ashlie Merchant with Wilkes & McHugh, P.A. are representing the families.

The lawsuit alleges that despite the history of flash flooding in the area, the employees and agents of the U.S. Forest Service made no attempt to warn the campers of the dangerous, “flashy” nature of the Little Missouri River that bordered the camp sites. Likewise, no signs were in place to warn the campers of the flooding potential of the area. Forest Service employees were not properly trained to handle such an emergency, and there was no adequate warning system in place for campers.

Perhaps worst of all is the fact that Loop D – where the Roeders were camping – should never have been built in the first place because it was located in a flood plain. Forest Service officials knew that, but moved forward with construction anyway, according to the lawsuit. Despite warnings from experts, they designed the campground for recreational vehicles instead of primitive tent camping, a decision that made the site even more dangerous.

The lawsuit seeks damages for the physical injuries and deaths of the three Roeders and the grief and mental anguish of the surviving family members.

Congressman: Hurry Up on Campground Cleanup

January 17, 2011 by · Comments Off on Congressman: Hurry Up on Campground Cleanup 

Arkansas Congressman Mike Ross is calling on the U.S. Forest Service to work faster to restore and reopen a southwest Arkansas campground that was the site of a deadly flood seven months ago.

Ross told the Texarkana Gazette that work to clean up the Albert Pike Recreational Area “has been frustratingly slow” and that reopening the site is important in the healing process.

A flash flood last June 11 killed 20 campers at the recreational area and two areas remain closed because of safety concerns. Ouachita National Forest spokeswoman Tracy Farley says the Forest Service is still considering the future operations of the campground.

June 11 Flash Flood A Top Story in Arkansas

December 28, 2010 by · Comments Off on June 11 Flash Flood A Top Story in Arkansas 

Editor’s Note: Each year, the Fort Smith, Ark., Times Record newsroom staff votes on the Top 10 local stories of the year. The Albert Pike Campground flood ranks as the No. 4 story of 2010. Here is that newspaper’s report on the tragic event that claimed 20 lives.

Campers planning to enjoy an early summer weekend of camping in a remote Arkansas valley were visited by tragedy June 11 as a severe storm touched off a flash flood that killed 20 people, most of whom had no knowledge of the impending disaster.

The normally sedate Caddo and Little Missouri rivers, fueled by heavy rain, rose from a pre-storm level of just less than four feet deep to an estimated depth of over 23 feet and sent a wall of water through the Albert Pike Recreation Area campground at 3 a.m. while campers were asleep.

Many of the 300 campers in the area were trapped by a wall of water that swept through the campground.

Those in the area reported the water rose at eight feet an hour in the area packed with vacationing families still asleep in their tents.

The force of the water flattened trees, turned over RVs, swept away tents and occupants and peeled asphalt off roads.

Rescuers managed to rescue 60 people stranded by high water in the flooded valley. Two dozen were hospitalized.

In the wake of the storm, rescue workers from throughout the state launched canoes and kayaks to began the grisly task of searching for victims as anguished relatives pleaded for news of their missing loved ones. Helicopters brought help to the campground and ferried the injured out.

Gov. Mike Beebe, who toured the site in the hours after the flooding, declared Montgomery and Pike counties disaster areas. The Arkansas National Guard provided a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter with five personnel on board to help with rescue efforts.

Two helicopters from the Oklahoma National Guard were also at the scene.

Rescue efforts were slowed by the remoteness of the location. Initial investigations indicated the National Weather Service had issued a flash flood warning but communicating it was difficult. Radio and cell reception is limited in the area, and no park ranger is stationed there.

Rain had begun falling around 9 p.m. the night before the flood. After midnight, heavy rain moved into the area, dumping between 6 and 8 inches of rain in four hours.

Law enforcement officers responded to the threat and began to move campers as the water steadily rose.

For some, the first indication of trouble was the roaring of the water in the pre-dawn darkness.

Recovery concluded with the discovery of the 20th victim on June 14. The Associated Press reported the deceased included six children. The youngest was 2 years old. Victims identified were largely from Texas and Louisiana.

Within a week of the disaster, Sen. Mark Pryor called for implementation of steps to make Arkansas campgrounds safer.

The U.S. Forest Service conducted a study of the disaster and released its findings in October.

The Forest Service called for a plan that includes steps such as ensuring campground visitors have information about facilities, improving emergency response and evacuation plans and expanding its training of employees and volunteers in visitor safety.

The report recommends installing more warning signs and construction of a safety zone for campers.

Also recommended are installation of radio equipment to enable National Weather Service warnings and Forest Service communications to reach the campground.

The report also recommends a memorial to the dead be erected at the high water mark of the June 11 tragedy.

The report faulted the Forest Service for poor design and construction of the campground, and for ignoring studies that showed the site was within the 100-year flood plain.

Some portions of the Albert Pike Recreation Area were reopened for day use on Aug. 27. Overnight camping is still prohibited.

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