Tree Collapses At Swim Meet, At Least Four Hurt

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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UPDATE: Friday, July 13, 2012

Those who were at a swim meet in Winfield when a tree fell on a tent where competitors and spectators were staying out of the sun, describe a chaotic scene.

They also describe a scene in which people rushed to the aid of those who were hurt.

Four people were taken to area hospitals after the tree fell about 4:30 p.m. Friday. Winfield Fire Chief Alan Stoll said two people were taken in critical condition to Wichita hospitals. Two others were taken to William Newton Hospital in Winfield with serious injuries. One of those two patients was later taken to a Wichita hospital.

"I heard a crack and started to run," said Allie Henwood, a young swimmer from Derby who was in one of the tents near the tree. "It scared me and it just came out of nowhere."

Chief Stoll said strong wind is likely to blame for the collapse of the tree.

"I'd say about a 35-foot to 40-foot section of the tree just snapped off with little or no warning to the people underneath it," Stoll said.

Allie was one of many people staying out of the sun between matches at the swim meet when the tree came crashing down on the tent she was under.

She got out in time and escaped injury, but she soon learned the mother of one of her friends had been hurt.

"It got her (the friend) scared at first, but then they calmed her down with my grandma's help," Henwood said.

Grandma, Emily Murphy, had just finished watching Allie's older sister, Ashlee, compete in a race.

"I saw my son-in-law racing away, so I knew something had gone wrong," Murphy said.

She was quickly summoned to help out.

"A lady was saying, 'Do you know this little girl,'" Murphy said, describing the moments after the tree fell. "I did know her. She's a good friend of my granddaughter's, so they asked me to keep her because her mother was hurt."

Murphy said the girl's mother was one of the patients taken to the hospital in Winfield.

Steve Murphy was one of several people who sprang into action and helped try to lift the tree off of the people trapped beneath it.

"It was just amazing how many people were working together to try to help the people that were hurt," he said. "It was just phenomenal."

Stoll, the fire chief, also applauded the quick work of those nearby.

"We don't actually want to remove them from what they're doing because -- that amount of people holding on -- they could've been stabilizing it from doing further injury to the patients underneath," Stoll said.

Ashlee Henwood, who had just finished her race when she saw people rushing to the scene, knew her parents and grandparents were okay because they were watching the match. However, she was worried about her sister, Allie.

"I was bawling because I was scared that she was gone," Ashlee said. "I would have missed her really much if she was gone."

Her fears were soon put to rest by a friend who knew that Allie was okay.

"I was freaking out and so she's like, 'Ashlee, calm down. She's okay,'" Ashlee said. "So, I was really happy that she was okay and I was thanking the Lord so much."

Chief Stoll was also grateful there weren't more injuries and that the injuries that did occur were not worse.

"The size of the hackberry tree that snapped off, we very easily could have had some more major injuries involved with this," he said.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A large tree collapse at a crowded Kansas park has hurt multiple people. It happened just before 4:30 p.m. near the Winfield Aquatic Center on the northwest side of Winfield.

Officials say at least four people were hurt. Three of those victims suffered critical injuries and where taken to Wichita hospitals while the fourth victim refused treatment at the scene. All four victims were adults.

Witnesses on the scene say the tree came down onto a group of people who were attending as swim meet at the pool. Those people were under pop-up tents in the park near the pool.

Witnesses say emergency workers could be seen helping to free people who were trapped under the branches. EMS responders from Winfield, Arkansas City and the surrounding area were called to the scene to help the victims.

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