Vigil Set For Saturday At Maymont For Boy Killed By Tree

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The Richmond area will come together at a park where a 4-year-old was killed by a tree during this week's storm to remember the boy.
A vigil was planned Saturday for Shawn Wills, who was killed at Maymont on Thursday when a tree fell on him and his father during a strong storm.

The vigil is opened to the public and led by The Pentecostals, the family's church.
Maymont was closed Friday for cleanup but reopened on Saturday.
The large tree uprooted shortly before 4 p.m. as officials tried to evacuate the park. The boy's father, John Wills, was injured. His 8-year-old brother was able to get out of the way of the falling tree.
Funeral arrangements for the boy have not been finalized.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)



RICHMOND, VA—Police have identified the 4-year-old boy killed at Maymont Park when a tree uprooted and fell during Thursday's severe storms. 

Police say 4-year-old Shawn T. Wills of Chesterfield was killed when he and his father were struck by the tree.

It happened around 4 p.m. Thursday as the park was being evacuated in an effort to get a small group of people to safety.

That's when a gust of wind came through the area, completely uprooting the tree, sending it crashing down.

Both the young boy and his father were struck by the tree. Four-year-old Shawn died at the scene; his father suffered non-life threatening injuries and was taken to VCU Medical Center, police said.

The tragedy happened just as the park was being evacuated.

“We did have staff at the scene, who were evacuating the grounds at that time,” said Gene Lepley with the Richmond Police Department. “They had someone with a bull horn, getting people to come in—that actually was going on at that point.”

Investigators had the area surrounded for much of the evening, with Richmond Police Commanders, including the Chief stopping by to pay their condolences.

Richmond City Mayor Dwight Jones visited the park to speak with the family as they mourned the loss of their loved one.

“It's a tragic situation, and you can't be everywhere at all times, but when the opportunity avails itself to be in a situation like this, I think it's a good thing to do,” Richmond City Mayor Dwight Jones said of the tragedy.

“We're asking the entire city to pray with this family,” Mayor Jones said.

A member of the board who operates the park tells 8News the tree that uprooted and toppled over was a Tulip Poplar.

“It's something that grows frequently in Virginia, and they're well known to be weak under pressure,” said Mary Lynn Bayliss with Maymont Park.

Bayliss tells 8News that the park takes precautions, such as pruning the trees, to try and prevent accidents like Thursday's from happening.

Officials with Maymont tweeted a statement Thursday saying “Maymont is deeply saddened by the death of a young guest struck by a tree.  Our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims.”

Maymont says the park will reopen to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Stay with 8News for updates.


Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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