BY MELANIE BUCK –
A federal judge in Texarkana has dismissed eleven lawsuits that stemmed from the 2010 flood at Albert Pike Campgrounds, in which twenty campers lost their lives.
The Little Missouri River that runs through the Albert Pike Campgrounds in the Ouachita National Forest near Umpire, Arkansas, rose from three feet to more than 20 feet in just a few hours in an epically historic flash flood event. The quick-rising water swept away campers as the flood approached. Many of the campers were sleeping as the waters came rushing through in the wee hours of the morning on June 11, 2010.
Following the flood, 11 civil suits were filed in federal courts and were later consolidated into one in the Western District of Arkansas, Texarkana Division. The suits argued that the U.S. government was responsible for the deaths because the Loop D campground, where most of the perished were camped, was built in a flood plain, of which the government was well aware. The suits also faulted the government for failing to place warning signs in the campground, for failing to maintain warning systems, and for failing to adequately train campground staff as to how to handle an emergency.
Western District Judge Susan Hickey, who presided over the lawsuit case, ruled that the government is immune from liability because of the Arkansas Recreational Use Statute. The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that the statute contains exceptions, which should allow the suits to move forward, but Hickey disagreed and denied the claims on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.
The plaintiffs have the option of appealing the ruling.