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2 boys hospitalized after tree falls on family sleeping in tent in Provo

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PROVO — Sadee Lewis said the wind had been blowing hard most of the night before it stopped and was followed by silence.

It was the sound she heard next, however, that she won't soon forget.

"All of a sudden I hear like this cracking noise, and then a big whoosh and then all the screaming and crying. It was crazy, it was intense," said Lewis, an aunt to 9-year-old Joseph Markland and 7-year-old Dallin Markland.

The young brothers were sleeping in their tent with four others when a large tree fell on top of them in the middle of the night.

"The two boys were under the branches," Lewis said. "They were talking. They were letting us know they were still conscious."

On his Facebook page, the boys' father, BenJoe Markland, updated his status Monday afternoon recounting what had happened.

"Our family was sleeping in a tent near Utah Lake when a tree fell on us at 4 a.m. Twins and Delena are safe. Joseph and Dallin were pinned under the tree. With the help of two dozen people and prayer, we freed them from the tree. We are in Primary Children's Hospital. Joseph (who took) the full brunt of the tree but seems to be doing well … has a lacerated liver and bad(ly) damaged eye socket. Dallin has a broken femur and is in a lot of pain. But so far so good. We will keep you posted."

Joseph suffered a lacerated liver and an orbital fracture, said Provo fire spokesman Dean York. Both were taken to Utah Valley Hospital before being transferred by ambulance to Primary Children's Hospital in serious conditions, he said.

Looking at the overall picture, family members and emergency crews all believe the outcome could have been much worse.

"There were angels with them. They were looked out for," said Brooke Lewis, another aunt of the boys. "It's hard to look at it. It's hard to be around it because I get all shaky. It's unreal. It's unbelievable this all happened."

The kind of tree that fell on them has a specific name among wildland firefighters.

"This was a widowmaker," York said. "They were lucky. Between the age of the tree and the wind, (it was) just an accident."

The incident happened just before 4 a.m. Monday at the Lakeside RV Campground, 4000 W. Center in Provo.

York said "significant wind" was reported by some of the campers. That wind, combined with the age of the tree, caused the large tree to fall on the tent where a family of six was sleeping.

The family, originally from Ogden but currently living in El Salvador, was in Provo for a family reunion, York said. The mother, father and 3-year-old twins were not injured. The 7- and 9-year-old boys, however, were pinned by the tree branches. York said Monday he believes the tree was in the willow family. The trunk of the tree was about 3 feet in diameter.

York did not know the height of the tree that fell, but noted others in the area are about 30 feet tall.

Brooke Lewis said the father rolled on top of the twins to protect them. After they got out, she said the brothers, who were pinned in their cots, did OK as long as someone was constantly talking to them. Lewis said she talked to them to keep them calm and kept checking how they were doing.

About a dozen other campers in the park helped emergency crews free the 7-year-old quickly. A chainsaw was briefly considered for getting Joseph out, York said. But rescue crews were able to free him about five minutes later.

At the hospital, Sadee Lewis said Joseph tried to keep his younger brother's spirits up by calling him Iron Man.

York said the only other time he can remember something like this happening was in 2000 when a woman and her granddaughter were killed, and several others injured, when an 80-foot tree fell on two picnic tables in Big Springs Park, about 2 miles up the South Fork of Provo Canyon.

The incident prompted Provo officials to go through the parks in the city and take down old trees that were determined to be unsafe because of age or disease.

Contributing: Peter Samore

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam