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Girl dies in Smoky Mountains when tree falls on tent

Park officials said the girl was in her family’s tent at the time of the accident.
Cucumber Gap Trail
The Cucumber Gap Trail located in the Elkmont section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.Wilsilver77 / Getty Images/iStockphoto
/ Source: AP (Associated Press)

A falling tree killed a 7-year-old girl on Wednesday at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the park said.

Park officials said the girl was in her family's tent at the time of the accident. They did not identify her. The girl's family members that were with her at the time, her father and two siblings, weren't hurt.

The tree was a red maple about 2 feet wide, park officials said.

Rangers responded to the scene around 12:30 a.m. in the Elkmont Campground. The campsite and adjacent campsites were closed, but the campground remained open, the park said.

This appears to be the third reported death in the park so far this year. On May 9, Charles Queen, 76, was found partially submerged in the Little River. The NPS told local media that there were no obvious signs of foul play in that incident.

On Feb. 24, Megan Thompson, 35, of Ohio, drowned in the Oconaluftee River on the North Carolina side of the park.

Her friends told park officials that she'd been kayaking when she got pinned between a fallen tree and the riverbank.

Wednesday's death is the second news-making incident at the Elkmont campground so far this year. In June, park officials euthanized a 350-pound black bear after it attacked a family's tent as they slept. The bear scratched a 3-year-old girl and her mother, NPS said in a release, adding that both were OK and only suffered superficial scratches to their heads.

Park officials said it appeared the bear had become food conditioned, meaning it learned to depend on human food and waste in developed areas like campgrounds and picnic spots. In the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, human-bear conflicts peak in late May and June when natural foods, like berries, are scarce.

Elkmont Campground is best known for the annual synchronous fireflies event, in June when the Photinus carolinus, the special kind of firefly that flashes in sync, mate.