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Three teens injured, one seriously, after Alberta storm knocks tree onto tent

BOTTREL, Alta. — Three teens are recovering from injuries after an intense storm tore through a campground northwest of Calgary and knocked a tree onto their tent.

EMS spokesman Adam Loria says four ambulances were dispatched to the campground in the hamlet of Bottrel on Friday afternoon.

Loria says all of the teens were boys and that one of them suffered multiple serious injuries, although he adds the teen is expected to survive.

Duane Needham, owner of the Bottrel General Store, which operates the campground for Rocky View County, says hail was so intense he couldn't even see the campground from the store and dozens of trees were toppled.

Needham says his brother and niece were the first to arrive at the tent where the three boys, aged 16 and 17, were staying.

He says they had to remove a branch that was pinning the boy who was most seriously injured, noting the boy was speaking and was able to move his hands and feet.

"It was the weirdest storm I've ever seen," Needham said. "It was quite a mess. It was something you had to see to believe."

Loria said one of the teens was taken by ground ambulance to Foothills Hospital in Calgary in stable, non-life-threatening condition. The remaining two were taken to Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary with minor injuries, Loria said.

Needham said that when his brother and niece made it to the tent, the boy that was stuck under a branch was having trouble breathing because of the pressure.

"They snapped the branch and took the pressure off," he said.

Needham said he didn't know where the boys were from but believed they were local, noting their parents arrived at the scene within 20 minutes.

Needham suspects it may have been a tornado.

Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Sara Hoffman said the weather office issued a severe thunderstorm watch for a large area of southern Alberta on Friday. She said she has seen pictures of accumulated hail, but said an investigation into the weather event is still ongoing.

Hoffman said major damage doesn't necessarily mean there was a twister.

"Severe wind gusts can be more damaging than a tornado," she said.

Hoffman said investigations strongly lean on pictures as well as witness accounts, and that she encourages people to email them to [email protected].

Alberta frequently experiences intense summer storms with hail, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada says one last month in the Calgary area that pounded homes, vehicles and crops caused almost $1.2 billion in insured damage, making it the fourth most expensive insured natural disaster in Canadian history.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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