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Campers' Van Plunges Over Mountainside In NC

7:47 AM, Jun 18, 2013   |    comments
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Brevard, NC (ACT) -- A group of instructors and teenage campers from an area summer camp escaped serious injury Monday when their van plunged over the side of a mountain in the Transylvania County section of Pisgah National Forest.

The accident was reported shortly after 10:30 a.m. on gravel Forest Service road 475B, off U.S. 276 north of Brevard, and involved campers from Success Oriented Achievement Realized. The Balsam-based camp serves youths with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder.

The 16-passenger capacity Ford van was carrying two instructors and eight campers 13-16 years old. One adult and one teen suffered minor injuries and were taken to Transylvania Regional Hospital, Highway Patrol Trooper L.T. Jones said. The two were treated and released by early Monday afternoon.

After going over the embankment, the van lodged against a large tree about 30 feet down the steep slope.

"That's the hand of God right there," Jones said. "I don't know how far down the slope it might have gone if it hadn't hit that tree."

The accident happened when the driver, Katrina Ireland, 21, of Asheville, got too close to the drop-off while passing an oncoming vehicle, Jones said.

"She met a car and tried to ease off the right side, and the shoulder just gave way," he said. "She was not at fault. It's just a narrow road."

No charges will be filed, Jones said. The driver of the other vehicle did not stop, he said.

Jones said the adults and campers handled the emergency well.

The group was traveling the road on a rock-climbing outing, said John Wilson, the camp's executive director.

"The instructors handled the situation well, and the kids followed instructions and were calm," Wilson said. "We're very thankful the students are healthy and that the injuries seem to be minor."

In addition to the Highway Patrol, rangers from the U.S. Forest Service and rescuers from the Brevard Rescue Squad responded to the accident.

Jones said drivers on Forest Service roads should be especially cautious because of wet conditions this spring.

"I'm sure the rain hasn't helped," he said. "Just use caution because of the possibility of soft shoulders. If you feel you can't safely pass another vehicle, one party or the other needs to back up to a safe location."

Written By: Sabian Warren, Asheville Citizen-Times

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