‘This Was Just Totally Tragic Bad Luck’: High School Cheerleader Dies From Fallen Tree

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Fiona McLoughlin Contributor
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Kara Bryson, an 18-year-old high school cheerleader, died from a fallen tree Monday during intense storms in North Carolina.

Emergency service crews were called to a report of a fallen tree on a camper in the Penland Point Community near Lake Chatuge, where they found Bryson dead, ABC 13 News reported, citing the Clay County Emergency Services’ press release. The teen was reportedly in the area with friends for Memorial Day weekend.

“It took a little bit of extrication for us to get her out and a very hostile rain and lightning still going on all around,” Clay County EMS Director Jeff Ledford told the outlet. “This was just totally tragic bad luck … The tree was only about 6-8 feet from the trailer.”

There were four other people alongside Bryson in the camper who escaped without serious injuries, Ledford told the outlet. (RELATED: REPORT: Man Impaled By Tree Limb During Storm Dies)

Bryson was visiting the lake alongside a fellow cheerleader, Callie Parker, and another friend’s family, according to The Mountaineer. Parker recounted the thunderstorm and the fallen tree.

“I put my hands over my head because I wasn’t sure what it was,” she told the outlet.

Parker said she briefly saw the tree had gone through the roof where Byrson had been sleeping, and she ran from the camper to call 911.

“It was still pouring the rain. I was just in complete shock,” she told The Mountaineer.

“This is a loss. A devastating loss. A tragedy to everyone, most importantly to her family and friends… but also a horrible loss to our cheer family,” the Tuscola High School cheerleading team posted on Facebook. “We love you, Kara! Always a Tuscola Cheerleader. Always in our hearts. Forever missed!”

“We are mourning the loss of one of our precious students. Our hearts and minds are with the family during this very difficult time,” the Haywood County Schools’ Superintendent Trevor Putnam said in a statement, News 13 reported. “Additional support is available for staff and students needing assistance. We will continue to support the needs of our Tuscola family through graduation and beyond.”

Bryson was set to graduate Friday, The Mountaineer reported. An empty chair will be placed and decorated in the cheerleader’s honor.

There were reports of “strong gusty winds” and “quarter-size hail” Sunday night that continued into the early hours of Monday, the outlet reported, citing reports from the National Weather Service. There were numerous isolated reports of downed trees from the storm.

There were reports of winds reaching speeds of 50 to 70 mph but none regarding tornado activity, according to the National Weather Service station in Morristown, Tennessee.