As Doug High recounted the events surrounding a deadly storm that hammered a religious summer camp in Carroll County, he was struck by his injured daughter's words. The first thing she asked when he picked her up at the hospital was, "Daddy, why did God do this to our camp?"
"For the first time as a parent, I was at a loss for words," the Manchester resident said Wednesday. "What do you say to that?"
Kirsten High, 11, who suffered a concussion, was one of seven children hospitalized after being injured by falling branches and trees in Tuesday evening's violent thunderstorm at River Valley Ranch in Millers.
A 12-year-old camper died of his injuries; his name has not been released.
Detritus left behind by the storm littered the camp Wednesday. Trees were down, signs related to the Western-theme camp lay on the ground.
By Wednesday evening, some campers, their parents by their sides, returned to pick up their belongings. A jar filled with dandelions and red flowers lay near the spot where the boy was fatally injured.
"It's a very sad day at River Valley Ranch. Our hearts are heavy for the victims," River Valley Ranch Executive Director Jon Bisset said. "We've been around for 62 years, and we've never had anything like this happen before, so it's been a very difficult time for us."
More than 100 campers ages 7 to 12 from across the Mid-Atlantic region were participating in a Bible study and singing songs in an open-air pavilion at the camp about 7 p.m. Tuesday when they saw black clouds on the horizon.
Bisset said counselors "immediately enacted our protocols for getting the children to a safe building. … In the process of doing that, the storm came upon them rapidly, quickly and violently without any notice."
Officials said as counselors led the campers along a wooded path toward a shelter about 150 yards away, several children were injured by falling branches and trees.
Along the path and around the pavilion, trees were snapped in two or torn up by the roots. About 15 to 20 trees were knocked over, and large branches were strewn about the camp, Bisset said.
He said ranch officials had been monitoring the storm, but the winds struck before the campers could be moved to a safe location.
Six children were hospitalized for treatment of injuries that were not life-threatening, and two children were treated at the scene.
Five of the injured were taken to Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster. By early Wednesday, they had been transferred to other hospitals or released, according to a spokeswoman.
Three were brought to Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said spokeswoman Ekaterina Peshava, though it was unclear if they were transfers from Carroll or other hospitals. Two were treated and released; one was admitted but was "not critical," Peshava said.
The children suffered head injuries, and cuts and bruises, she said.
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service had tracked Tuesday's storm as it moved east into Maryland. Amy Bettwy, a meteorologist with the Baltimore-Washington forecast office, said the storm had a "history of producing damaging winds, all the way from West Virginia."
At 5:06 p.m., the region was placed under a severe thunderstorm watch.
At 6:39 p.m., a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Carroll, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Harford, Howard and Montgomery counties, and Baltimore City and Loudoun County, Va.
Bettwy said such a warning is issued when wind gusts of 60 mph or greater, or hail at least the size of a quarter, is expected.