A destroyed camper sits at the Sebago Lake Family Campground Friday, where a 9-year-old girl was killed the day before by a tree that fell on the car she was sitting in. Thursday’s storms knocked over several trees at the campground, causing extensive damage to vehicles and campers. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Standish campground where a 9-year-old girl was killed by a falling tree Thursday afternoon reported “massive devastation and destruction” from a sudden and severe storm that also prevented rescuers from quickly reaching the scene.

The girl was in a car at Sebago Lake Family Campground when a pine tree fell on the vehicle during the storm, Capt. Donald Foss of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. She and her family are from Poland and were camping there.

The girl’s identity has not been released.

Emergency personnel began receiving storm-related 911 calls in the Standish and Sebago area at around 4:15 p.m. as severe thunderstorms with heavy rain and wind battered the area, police said. The storm, which the National Weather Service said was a “microburst,” knocked down several trees and utility lines, blocking several roads and restricting vehicle travel.

Rescuers responded to a call that a tree had fallen on a car and a child was trapped inside at about 4:25 p.m. police said. “Numerous (road) blockages in nearly every direction” made emergency response difficult.

First responders from Standish were forced to stop one-tenth of a mile from the campground entrance and go the rest of the way on foot. First responders from Sebago were also held up by fallen debris and trees, which had to be cleared for the vehicles to get through, police said.


Emergency responders, family members and campers worked to clear away debris and fallen trees using chain saws, tractors and a jaws of life tool to extricate the girl. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

The area around the campsite sustained heavy damage from trees, including damage to the girl’s family’s camper and “complete destruction” of two vehicles at the campsite.

Other sites within the campground, as well as nearby homes, particularly in the Long Beach and Wards Cove area, sustained heavy damage, with dozens of trees – some 24 to 30 inches in diameter – uprooted or broken in half, police said.

Many boats, homes, vehicles and RV-style campers were damaged, but no other significant injuries were reported.

Officials with Regional School Unit 16 in Poland said they would not release the girl’s name because of privacy concerns, but said the Poland Community School fourth-grader was “a friend to all.”

“She was a delightful student at PCS and will always be remembered for her smile and kindness to others,” superintendent Kenneth Healey and assistant superintendent Amy Hediger wrote in a letter to the community.


The school will have counselors available July 25-27 for anyone who may need assistance, they said.

Police declined to comment further, but Foss said he expects more information will be released in the next few days. 

“Words can’t describe what people would go through as a parent losing a child,” he said. “That’s not supposed to happen to a 9-year-old little girl.”


The National Weather Service in Gray categorized Thursday’s storm as a microburst, a localized column of sinking air, or a downdraft, within a thunderstorm that is usually less than 2.5 miles in diameter. Microbursts can cause extensive damage at ground level, and can be life-threatening.

Jon Palmer, a meteorologist with the weather service in Gray, said Friday that wind gusts reached 59 miles per hour in North Windham around the time of the accident.


Wind damage in the area was extensive, he said, with the Sebago Lake area bearing the brunt of the storm. Police shut down Route 114 at the Standish and Sebago town line at about 6 p.m. Thursday because of storm damage.

Almost 2,400 Central Maine Power Co. customers were without power Friday morning, with 1,549 of those in Cumberland County. There were 72 still without power Friday night, 32 of them in Cumberland County.

Sebago Lake Family Campground said in a Facebook post Friday morning that the storm “came out of nowhere and left massive devastation and destruction.”

Campground staff are starting to pick up the mess, but have no power and internet, with limited access to phone service, according to the post.

Debby Vaillancourt, a camper of 30 years, who lives in Saco, was on site helping to clean up on Friday. She was not at Sebago Lake Family Campground on Thursday when the storm hit. “I am heartbroken, and a little fearful”, said Vaillancourt, who comes to the campground with her husband, children and grandchildren. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Debby Vaillancourt was one of about two dozen people helping clean up some of the tree limbs and debris from Thursday night’s storm. She was driving around the front portion of the campsite in her golf cart, pulling over every now and then to talk with other volunteers and campers. A few other campers were handing out snacks and bottles of water from the back of a truck parked nearby.

Vaillancourt said she’s been visiting the campground as a seasonal member for 30 years, after randomly picking the location from a phonebook. She, like several others at the roughly 100-lot campground, keeps her camper there year-round.


Neither she nor her husband was at the site Thursday night, and like many other campers, her trailer was relatively undamaged.

“We were lucky,” Vaillancourt said. “I can’t believe the wind took these trees down.”

A few hours after Vaillancourt arrived, campground employees and volunteers had sawed most of the fallen trees into thick logs stacked around the campground. The ground was littered with limbs and strong-scented pine needles.

Vaillancourt remarked that the day seemed sunnier.

“Because we’ve lost so many trees,” she said.

Vaillancourt had been at Pine Point Beach in Scarborough during the storm, about 40 minutes away. It had been so clear and sunny that she was surprised to learn that evening of the damage at the campground.


“And it was beautiful. I really felt guilty,” she said.

Even those who were at the campground at the time of the storm said that at first, it didn’t feel terribly different from any other short-lived burst of rain. One family – a father and mother with two young children who asked not to be named – said the day had mostly been sunny and they received no notice of an upcoming storm before it hit.

Two trees fell onto a couple of propane tanks in the back of the camper, miraculously missing the rest of the vehicle, with the family inside. The father estimated that the entire storm had lasted about 15 minutes – it appeared no different from any other short rainstorm until the trees started falling, he said.

A few feet from their campers was a bike, crushed under the weight of another fallen tree. Throughout the area park benches and tables were surrounded by debris and couldn’t be reached.

The most devastating damage was at the front of the campground, immediately past a building where visitors can check in, buy supplies or do laundry.

Aaron Beaulieu had arrived at his camper shortly after noon, after receiving a text from a friend and fellow camper that his camper had been one of those destroyed. He hadn’t been in the area during the short-lived storm.

But a tree had smashed the back of his camper near an awning.

“It’s actually right where my kids would sleep,” Beaulieu said, pointing to the mound of tree parts and branches. A small pillow could be seen sticking out from the pile.

This was the family’s first year staying at the campground, Beaulieu said. They’d had the camper for a couple of years.

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