Pennsylvania Record

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Parents of girl killed in tree accident file wrongful death suit against Pa. campsite and owners

By Nicholas Malfitano | Sep 21, 2017

LANCASTER – The parents of a young girl killed by a fallen oak tree at a Kirkwood campground this past April have consequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the campground and its owners.

Stephen Shoemaker and Pene Shoemaker (Co-Administrators of the Estate of their deceased daughter, Sarah Bella Shoemaker) of Newport filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Aug. 31 versus GLE-CON, LLC and Oma’s Family Campground, LLC, both of Kirkwood.

The litigation states the campground, owned by Glenn and Connie Masse since October 2016, is located in Kirwkood, in Lancaster County – and is comprised of 88 separate campsites.

The plaintiffs initially leased one of these campsites, Campsite No. 16, from the former owners D&J Shady Rest, LLC/Ken-Lin, LLC, and renewed that lease in September 2016 (just prior to the current owners and defendants taking ownership of the campground) for a seasonal rate of $1,700.

On Sunday morning, April 30, 2017, Pene Shoemaker and her 10-year-old daughter, Sarah Bella Shoemaker, were sleeping in their camping trailer on their lot in the defendants’ campground. Pene then awoke and exited the trailer. Mere moments later, a large and decayed oak tree broke apart and fell on the plaintiffs’ camper, with the impact killing Sarah Bella, the lawsuit says.

The coroner’s report revealed Sarah Bella died from traumatic asphyxia, and subsequent investigation showed the tree that struck the Shoemakers’ camper was at least three feet in diameter, the suit says. Additionally, the tree had a long-term infestation of insects in its buttress and lower trunk, which led it to be partially hollow. As a result, the tree’s structure became weakened and caused it to fall on the plaintiffs’ camper.

The plaintiffs believe the defendants failed to inspect and test the campsite for safety, failed to remove the partially hollow and dangerous tree from the grounds and failed to retain and preserve all of the branches of the tree that fell on the Shoemakers’ camper for inspection and examination, among other accusations.

For counts of negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, survival and wrongful death, the plaintiffs are seeking damages in an amount requiring compulsory arbitration pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1021(c), plus interest, costs of suit, delay damages, as well as all damages permitted under Pennsylvania law.

The plaintiffs are represented by David B. Dowling and K. Wesley Mishoe of Rhoads & Sinon, in Harrisburg.

Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas case 17-07700

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas