Details scarce in campground fatality

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SANDPOINT — Few details are emerging from a freak mishap that claimed the life of a Sandpoint man on Sunday night in northeastern Pend Oreille County.

Kyle L. Garrett was killed when a 200-foot tree was knocked over during a storm and landed on his tent shortly after 11:30 p.m.

“It’s just tragic,” said Pend Oreille County Sheriff Alan Botzheim.

Garrett, 48, and his wife were in a tent at the Stagger Inn Campground when the tree was toppled during a thunderstorm.

Botzheim said the couple heard a loud crack and Garrett told his wife to get out of the tent.

“They said it sounded like lightning hit a tree nearby. After that, she tried to get out. She made it to the door of the tent when the tree came down, injuring her,” said Botzheim.

Garrett, according to the social media networking site Facebook, was the owner of Aviation Schools Online. He studied at California State University at Chico and was originally from Davis, Calif.

A celebration of Garrett’s life is planned for Sept. 8 on top of Schweitzer Mountain.

“I know a lot of people’s thoughts and prayers are with them and ours are, too,” said Botzheim.

The U.S. Forest Service announced on Wednesday that the Beaver Creek Campground at the north end of Priest Lake will be closed due to the discovery of more than 40 hazardous trees, which pose a threat to visitors’ safety.

Beaver Creek is about nine miles east of Stagger Inn, which is also closed for the time being.

“Closing a popular campground before a holiday weekend is a terribly difficult decision but, in this case there are too many dangerous trees to remove before the weekend, so closure is our only option to ensure a safe environment,” Idaho Panhandle National Forest Supervisor Mary Farnsworth said in a statement announcing the closure.

In the wake of Sunday’s storms and Garrett’s death, Forest Service crews have been assessing conditions of developed recreation sites throughout the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.

The assessment does not include areas outside of developed recreation sites and the Forest Service is reminding visitors that hazardous trees may be present anywhere on the national forest.

Hazardous trees are not always readily apparent, but there can be some obvious indicators, such as trees with damaged roots, branches or trunks. Insect-damaged trees and leaning or dead trees are especially hazardous during windstorms.

Assessment updates, including any temporary closures, will be posted at www.inciweb.org.

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