Idaho family sues Forest Service for $1M after tree hit son

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho family has sued the U.S. Forest Service demanding more than $1 million after a large dead tree at a remote campsite fell and injured their young son.

Richard and Melinda Armstrong, of Caldwell, said their family was camping in the Boise National Forest in September 2010 when a gust of wind blew over the dead tree. It fell on their son, resulting in a large laceration, a compound fracture and a puncture wound in his back that impaired his breathing.

The boy, who was 6 at the time, was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Boise.

The couple said the Forest Service was negligent because it didn’t remove the tree, which was a hazard. They’re suing for more than $1 million in damages and emotional stress in federal court.

“The tree was clearly dead — had been dead for years — and was within eight feet of the fire ring, and within 48 feet of the Forest Service road,” said Eric Rossman, their attorney in Boise, on Wednesday. “It was an obvious hazard.”

Rossman said the Armstrong’s son has undergone multiple surgeries and suffered “severe permanent impairment” of his leg.

David Olson, spokesman for the Boise National Forest, cited agency policy that prevents comment on pending litigation.

At issue is whether the federal agency had a responsibility to ensure that a site where people frequented and was near a public road was adequately protected from a potentially dangerous tree.

There have been similar lawsuits elsewhere, including an Oregon man who sued the Forest Service in 2010 after he was struck and injured by a tree while driving in his truck. That case was settled earlier this year and has been dismissed.

The Armstrongs’ camping trip took them about 50 miles north of Boise, to a remote Forest Service road east of the hamlet of Ola in Gem County. They contend the place along Squaw Creek where they were overnighting was, in fact, a developed campsite, according to the Forest Service’s definition.

But even if the campsite was not considered to be developed, according to their complaint, the improvements there, including a fire ring made of rocks, and the Forest Service’s knowledge that it was a place where people camped regularly created a duty for the agency “to take immediate measures to inspect and remove the tree, close the site and/or warn user at the site of the serious risk of injury, death or property damage.”

More in Local News

Mill Creek councilman no longer lives in city, panel finds

The Canvassing Board determined Sean Kelly is not eligible to vote there.

A Democrat and ex-Republican team up to end two-party politics

Brian Baird and Chris Vance unveil a new organization called Washington Independents.

The beavers weren’t happy, either, about Mill Creek flooding

A tree fell on their dam, sending a rush of water into a neighborhood near Jackson High School.

Stranger offered candy to student walking home from school

The Granite Falls School District is warning families about… Continue reading

Coming together as family

Special-needs students and teachers at the Transition Center cooked up a Thanksgiving feast.

Lynnwood’s property tax promise to homeowners sort of true

They were told consolidation of fire departments would save, but new rates likely will be more.

Woman who died in 5-car crash identified

A car driven by Susan E. Sill rear-ended another vehicle Wednesday on Smokey Point Boulevard.

Man convicted of 4 counts of wire fraud, 1 count of embezzlement

He siphoned away more than $50,000 from the U.S. Naval Seat Cadet Corps.

Couple marries where they had their first date: the hospital

The Marysville couple had planned to be married twice before but their plans were waylaid.

Most Read