A federal judge in Texarkana, Ark., has dismissed 11 lawsuits stemming from the 2010 flood at Albert Pike campgrounds which killed 20 campers.
Many of those that died in the early hours of June 11, 2010, were from the Texarkana area. The Little Missouri River in the Ouachita National Forest rose from three to more than 20 feet in a matter of hours in an historic flash flood. The quickly rising water swept away campers, many of whom were sleeping as the river rapidly rose.
In the flood’s aftermath, 11 civil suits were filed in federal courts in multiple states which were later consolidated into one in the Western District of Arkansas, Texarkana Division. The suits argued that the U.S. government is responsible for the tragic deaths of men, women and children because the Loop D campground, where most of those who died were camping, was built in a flood plain of which the government was well aware. The suits also fault 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.
Hickey 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 Tuesday in an 18-page opinion.
The plaintiffs have the option of appealing Hickey’s ruling to the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.