COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A Cobb County family blames the Georgia Department for Natural Resources for the death of its 15-year-old daughter.
Two years ago, a tree fell and killed Joelle Dalgeish during a camping trip to celebrate a friend's birthday at Red Top Mountain State Park.
She was lying in her hammock when a tree uprooted and landed on her head.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes is representing the girl’s parents in a wrongful death lawsuit against the Georgia DNR.
Barnes gave Channel 2 Cobb County bureau chief Chris Jose pictures of the uprooted tree that fell onto Dalgeish. She died two days later.
“Do you believe, if the DNR did its job, she would still be alive today?” Jose asked Barnes.
“Absolutely,” Barnes said.
Dalgeish would have graduated from Harrison High School this month. Barnes said her death could have been prevented.
“It was an obvious dead tree that had not been removed,” Barnes said. “They did not follow their own protocols. They didn’t follow common sense.”
On Monday, Jose read over the documents directly related to the Georgia DNR’s investigation.
The reports revealed the fallen tree was dead and lacked a viable root system to hold the tree in the ground.
“I hope this is a wake-up call to all of our state parks,” Barnes said.
Through an open records request, Jose learned officials with the DNR sent emails to workers in April 2013 asking that “action is taken regarding dead/hazardous trees.”
The mandate came after a tree fell onto a child in Idaho. His family sued for $1 million.
“If the DNR had done that, Joelle would be alive today,” Barnes said.
A follow-up report in 2017 from the DNR said, “The park staff identifies and removes dangerous trees in the park on a regular basis. Last fall, 32 trees were cut and removed from the campground and cottage areas of the park.”
But this report shows the last documented tree removal at Red Top Mountain State Park was in July 2015, two years before a fallen tree killed Dalgeish.
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