Officials say a 12-year-old died less than 24 hours after arriving at a wildlife camp in North Carolina.

A 12-year-old boy has died less than 24 hours after arriving at a North Carolina wilderness camp for troubled teens, according to authorities, who said the child’s death “appears to have been unnatural.”

The boy, whose identity has not been publicly released, was found dead at the Carolina Trails Camp in Toxaway Lake, North Carolina, on the morning of February 3, the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office said. The previous day, he “had been transported by his parents by two men from New York to the Carolina Trails Camp,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement, adding that “the death appeared suspicious since he had arrived at the camp less than 24 hours earlier.” “.

The boy was assigned to a cabin with other students and four staff members when he arrived at camp. Shortly after 8 a.m. the next day, staff discovered he was not breathing, officials said. Staff said they performed CPR, but when emergency responders arrived, “rescue efforts began and then stopped as the child appeared to have been dead for some time,” the Sheriff’s Office statement said.

After an autopsy earlier this week, a forensic pathologist said the boy’s death “appears to have been unnatural but the manner and cause of death are still pending,” according to the sheriff’s office.

The camp told officials it had placed staff assigned to the boy’s cabin on leave, the sheriff’s office said. Investigators have executed search warrants for two areas of Trails Carolina and are continuing their investigation, but “Trails Carolina Camp has not fully cooperated,” the sheriff’s office said.

Trails Carolina disputed that in a statement issued Thursday through a public relations firm, saying its employees “fully cooperated” and that the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office statement “provides neither an accurate description of the facts nor the current status of the investigation.”

Trails Carolina also said it “conducted an internal investigation into this incident and the Trails facility was investigated by outside specialists who are subject matter experts,” and no evidence was found that the camp caused any harm or had inappropriate supervision or unsafe conditions. It was not clear from the statement what type of experts conducted the external investigation.

In a statement issued earlier in the week, the camp said there were few details available about the boy’s death, “only that at approximately 8 a.m. on February 3, staff called 911 when a 12-year-old student did not respond to attempts.” “To wake him up.”

She cautioned against speculation and said her priority “was to acknowledge and respect the unfathomable impact on this family’s lives and to maintain the integrity of the investigation.”

Controversial history

The boy’s death is the second for a Trails Carolina camper in the past decade. In November 2014, 17-year-old Alec Lansing left the camp, sparking a massive search. for him The body was later found in a streamInvestigators believe he fell after climbing a tree and broke his hip, leaving him unable to move. Reports at the time said he died of hypothermia.

2021 investigation by WBTV In Charlotte, North Carolina, a state Department of Health and Human Services report showed Carolina Trails waited five hours before calling for help to find Alec. The camp was cited for failure to supervise a student and fined $12,000 but was allowed to continue operating, the news agency said.

Trails Carolina said at the time that it was proud of the work it did serving children.

“Since its founding, Trails has helped make a difference in the lives of more than 2,800 teens,” Trails Carolina told WBTV in 2021. “It has been seven years since the tragic event in 2014 and we continue to pray for healing and peace for all.” included.”

Trails Carolina describes itself as an adventure therapy program that aims to “help children and teens with various mental health issues and behavioral concerns.” It is licensed by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; Records appear The agency has cited several deficiencies at the campground in recent years, most recently in June 2023, when it found that Trails Carolina Failed to provide training to staff on “Alternatives to Restrictive Interventions.”

The 2023 report states that students at the camp suffer from attention deficit disorder, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, learning differences and other conditions, and said some children told agency staff that they were being restrained by staff.

Most camp participants told the agency at the time that they were not injured when they were restrained, although one showed a bruise on their upper arm “caused by the hand of staff,” the report said. Another said employees raised their arms down and felt a “tingling” in one arm, so they asked the employees to stop, and the employees “relaxed a little,” the report says.

In response to the review, Carolina Trails Correction plan submitted In it, she committed to further training and wrote: “The CEO will monitor the situation to ensure it does not happen again.”

Trails Carolina did not respond to questions about its previous evaluations. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said it could not comment on the 12-year-old’s death, but said in an email that “staff have been on scene for several days investigating this incident and are working closely with local authorities.” “

The camp also faced legal problems. Federal court records obtained by NBC News show that the father of a former student who enrolled at Trails Carolina when she was 14 has sued her. The complaint, filed in 2022, alleges that the student was harassed in 2019 by another student in her dormitory and that staff denied her request to remain in a separate dormitory from her alleged attacker.

The complaint was later voluntarily dismissed by the student’s father but was filed again in 2023 in her name. Carolina Trails has denied the allegations in court documents, and the case remains ongoing.

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