Suspicious Death of 12-Year-Old Boy on First Day of Wilderness Camp

A North Carolina wilderness therapy camp for young people is currently under scrutiny following the suspicious death of a 12-year-old boy, who passed away less than a day after his arrival. The boy’s lifeless body was found last week at Trails Carolina, as reported by the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office.

The details surrounding the case remain limited, but it was disclosed that the boy was transported to the camp by two men from New York, as arranged by his parents. Upon arrival, he was assigned to a cabin with other minors and four adult staff members. The following morning, a distress call was made to 911 reporting that the boy was not breathing. Emergency services were immediately dispatched to the scene.

Camp staff reported that they had attempted CPR, and a CPR mask was found at the scene. However, rescue efforts were halted as it was apparent that the child had been deceased for some time. Investigators were called to the camp to gather evidence and process the scene. The boy’s body was taken to a hospital for an initial examination by a medical examiner before being sent for an autopsy. Preliminary findings from a forensic pathologist suggested the death was not natural, but the exact cause and manner of death are still under investigation.

The investigation led to search warrants being executed at two separate locations within Trails Carolina Camp and a location in Pisgah Forest. The latter location was involved as the camp had relocated the other juvenile campers from the cabin where the incident occurred to this site.

The sheriff’s office has expressed concerns about the camp’s level of cooperation with the investigation and has noted that the staff members assigned to the cabin at the time of the incident have been put on leave. The final report from the medical examiner may not be available for several months.

Trails Carolina, which markets itself as an “Adventure Wilderness Program For Students 10-17,” has had a troubled past. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has issued the camp a “Statement of Deficiency” five times since 2019. Past issues have included improper handling and administration of medication.

In a statement released last Thursday, Trails Carolina refuted the sheriff’s office’s claims, insisting they were fully cooperating with investigators. They also stated that initial reports suggested the death was accidental, but did not provide further details on how the boy died.

The camp’s statement also emphasized their commitment to a thorough, professional, fact-based investigation, and warned against spreading false or misleading information. They maintained that their staff had fully cooperated with the investigation, and that no other students were involved in the incident. They also stated that their internal investigation, as well as an external one conducted by professionals, found no evidence of negligence or unsafe conditions at the camp.