Summer camp is supposed to be filled with fun activities, new friends, and life-long memories. Accidents can happen anywhere, but these summer camp horror stories prove that summer camps aren’t spared the worst kinds tragedies and terrifying incidents.
Just about every person who’s gone to summer camp has memories of terrible mosquito bites and poison ivy. Leaving camp with scrapes and bruises or even a broken bone doesn’t seem so surprising. Though exact statistics are not known, it’s estimated that as many as a hundred campers die every year while away for the summer. Our list compiles car wrecks, swimming accidents, fires and heartbreaking tragedies that all took place at summer camp. Other horror stories involve food allergies, and general negligence on the part of terrible counselors and supervisors.
There are serious risks you should consider when you send your kid off to live with strangers for a few weeks. Before you decide on a camp for your kids, make sure you’ve done your research. Laws regarding summer camps vary from state to state. While 2,200 camps are accredited by the American Camping Association (meaning they have met the organization’s safety and health standards), inspections are only required every three years. That means you need to ask the tough questions when it comes to the safety of your child.
Girl Killed by a Falling Tree
Camp counselor, Annais Rittenberg, was crushed by a tree that toppled over onto a campfire circle at Yosemite National Park. No children were hurt but four other female camp counselors were injured and two had to be hospitalized following the incident.
Camper Struck by Lightning
Thirteen-year-old Ethan Kadish was struck by lightning while attending the Goldman Union Camp Institute. He spent 145 days in the hospital after suffering a traumatic brain injury caused by the lightning.
Teens Almost Die Because of Faulty Smoke Detector
An overloaded electrical outlet caused a fire that almost led to the death of a group of teen girls and their counselor at Camp Pontiac. The smoke detector in their cabin failed to go off until flames had almost fully engulfed the cabin. One of the girls in the cabin noticed something was wrong when the bedside table fan turned off. She saw the flames at the ceiling of the cabin and alerted everyone.
Kid Committed Suicide at Boy Scout Camp
William Shook shot himself in the head with a .40-caliber handgun while inside a tent with another boy at Boy Scout camp. According to medical examiners, Shook suffered from Asperger syndrome and depression and had previously expressed suicidal intentions.
Teen Drowns at Summer Camp
Fifteen-year-old Jacob Waxberg died during a nighttime swimming session at a summer camp in southwest Michigan. According to the Waxberg’s lawyer, Todd A. Smith, “There are regulations which prohibit swimming in darkness which were clearly violated by having Jacob, and other swimmers, in the lake after 10 p.m. on this summer evening.”
Run Over by Truck at Boy Scout Camp
Bruce Rhiddlehoover, known to friends as “Rocky” was killed while performing his nightly chore of collecting trash when he fell under a trailer. According to Utah National Parks Council Scout Executive David Pack, “He slipped and fell underneath the tires of the trailer that was carrying the trash.”
Summer Camp Shut Down after Kids Get Sick
Sixty-seven kids at a summer camp in Washington came down with the Norovirus. Kids began getting sick and the camp had to be evacuated. This virus spreads within 24-48 hours and lasts for up to three days.
Boy Collapses and Dies at Summer Camp
According to St. Joseph County coroners, Seth Oyola died of complications from an enlarged heart, when he collapsed at a children’s camp. The 9-year-old boy had just gone down the water slide when he clutched his stomach and collapsed. The heart condition had been previously undiagnosed.
Boy Died after Being Dunked a Dozen Times
Surveillance video captured 4-year-old Yoni Gottesman being dunked by his camp counselor a dozen times. Next, the boy is seen struggling to get to the end of the pool. Finally, Yoni is seen face-down. Even though there were two lifeguards on duty and camp counselors in the water, it took eight minutes before anyone noticed Yoni. He died in a hospital an hour later.
Boy Drowns at Summer Camp
Six-year-old Michael Duda died after he was pulled from a swimming pool during a summer camp program in Chicago. He was under the care of 10 camp counselors from the Village of Justice Park District summer camp. It’s unclear exactly what happened.
Six Kids Drown after Being Caught in Current
Girl Dies from Peanut Butter Reaction
Natalie Giorgi, 13, died after having a severe allergic reaction to peanut butter while she was attending Camp Sacramento. She accidentally grabbed a peanut-butter and chocolate rice krispy treat without knowing the treat had peanut butter on it. She immediately knew something was wrong. Three epi pens were used on her. But 20 minutes later she began vomiting, had trouble breathing, and then went into cardiac arrest.
Girl’s Skull Fractured at Summer Camp
During a game of “duck-duck-goose,” a camp counselor pushed around a little girl in her wheelchair so she could participate, the wheelchair tipped over. The girl fell and her head struck the cement. The girl’s skull was fractured in addition to other injuries.
Teen Killed in Summer Camp Basketball Accident
Injured in Converted Canoe
Five people were injured when a canoe that had been converted into a gravity-powered car overturned. The non-motorized converted canoe was carrying eight people at the time of the accident. Those injured had to be transferred to local hospitals.
Drowning at Transylvania University
Ricky Harris III drowned while at summer camp at Transylvania University. He was found at the bottom of the university’s indoor pool during a supervised recreational break. According to the surveillance video, the lifeguards were distracted at the time of the drowning.
Kid Dies after Sumo Wrestling
Curtis Geesaman died after suffering a head injury while sumo wrestling with another camper. Just after the accident, he was a little addled, but seemed to be doing okay. Later it became obvious that that was not the case. He was placed on life support and then later died at Childrens Medical Center.
Boy Killed During Severe Storm
A boy was killed during a severe thunder storm at the summer camp he was attending. According to the executive director at the camp, the boy, his counselor, and eight other children tried to gain shelter as soon as the storm started rolling in.
Cabin Burns down Before Camp
Luckily camp was not in session when a cabin burned down at the Fairview Michi-Lu-Ca Conference Center and Camp. Though there were counselors living in the bunk, they were not there when the fire occurred. It’s unclear what caused the fire.
Girl Dies after Sailing Camp Accident
Olivia Constants was trapped underwater for several minutes after her boat capsized. The teen was at a sailing camp. According to Department of Natural Resources Police spokesman Sgt. Art Windemuth, the harness she was wearing “got entangled in the rigging of the sailboat.”
Teen Dies in Cross-Country Bike Summer Program
Pushed into a Mat at Summer Camp
According to one Memphis mother, her son had been in pain for hours when she went to go pick him up from his summer camp. According to her son, he had been pushed into a mat by another child. “His tooth was chipped and bleeding everywhere. His left side of his face was swollen,” his mother said.
Camp Car Crash Kills Six
Five campers and a counselor from a dance camp died in a car crash. Investigators were looking to see if the camp could be held liable and if counselor Irina Mironova, who died in the crash, was authorized to take the campers on a trip. They were also looking into if the trip to the nearby swimming area was an official camp outing.
Killed on Summer Camp Trip
Tess Meisel was killed when the minivan she was riding in was struck by a tractor-trailer hauling sawdust. She was going on a camping trip from Camp Jewell, a YMCA camp. It’s possible that speed played a role in the crash.
Cabin Mom Wanted to Kill Camper
When her daughter overheard her cabin mom say “sometimes I want to kill Tallulah” she immediately contacted her parents, who were actually volunteering at the camp for the week. When the father confronted the cabin mom she said, “Actually, I said it twice. I don’t think there was anything wrong with it.” The little girl bawled her eyes out.