Campsite tragedy a timely reminder of gum tree risks

The tragic recent death of a Victorian camper is yet another awful reminder to grey nomads of the perils of camping near gum trees.

The 33-year-old Melbourne woman was killed when a tree branch fell on her at a camp­site at Boorhaman, north of Wangaratta. Another camper — a woman in her 40s — was also trapped under the branches of the red gum tree, but was pulled to safety and escaped with minor injuries.

The area, on the banks of the Murray River, is popular with birdwatchers and fishermen, as well as campers.

The incident is being de­scribed as a ‘freak of nature’.

Local CFA firefighter, Greg Lumby, told the media that the group had packed up their campervan and camper trailer and were ready to go home, when they sat down on a rug to have one last cold drink.

Mr Lumby, who attended the scene with the Norong CFA, said the group of about 12 people heard a ‘crack’ and people were able to jump out of the way.

“The poor one in the middle couldn’t get out quick enough,” he said. “It’s just an absolute freak of nature.”

The dangers of falling trees are well known.

Earlier this year, a couple staying near the Bluewater Caravan Park in Townsville suffered serious injuries after a tree fell on their caravan.

Experts warn that trees can drop limbs, or entire trees can fall, without warning and at any time. However, they may be particularly prone to drop­ping a limb or falling when they are stressed by events such as high wind, extreme temperature, or heavy rain. Campers need to be aware that falling tree limbs may bounce against other limbs, and swing out well beyond the edge of the tree’s canopy.

For every tragedy, there are dozens of lucky escapes.

Grey nomad Sandra H recalls the terrifying night a gum tree fell on her camper trailer while she slept.

“There was no wind or rain, a very calm night,” she said. “The tree split at the base and fell right down the middle … we had to be cut out but were not hurt badly. It obviously was not our time.”

Nonetheless, her $30,000 camper was a write-off.

Bob U has also had a fright­eningly close shave. He was camping next to the River Murray in February this year when a massive red gum branch came down following a spell of heavy rain.

“The huge limb possibly weighing 10 tonnes dropped in the still of the early morn­ing and missed a tent by less than a metre and that tent was located 27 metres from the base of the tree,” he said. “A very significant wake-up call to locate 1.5 times the height of any red gum to stay safe!”


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