British Columbia

Teen killed by tree on Vancouver Island was trying to save friends, mother says

The mother of the 13-year-old boy who was killed last week by a falling tree on Vancouver Island says the teen was the backbone of the family and died trying to save his friends.

Tai Caverhill, 13, was close to younger sister, who suffers from serious health issues

Tai Caverhill, 13, was killed during a field trip to a wilderness camp with classmates last week. (Boom Caverhill)

The mother of the 13-year-old boy who was killed by a falling tree on Vancouver Island last week says the teen was the backbone of the family and died trying to save his friends.

Tai Caverhill, a Grade 8 student at Victoria's Lansdowne Middle School, was on a wilderness trip with his classmates at Camp Barnard near Sooke, B.C.

He was hiking along a creek on Wednesday afternoon, the first day of a three-day trip, when a tree blew over toward his group.  

His mother, who spoke to CBC on Sunday afternoon, described the accident, pausing several times to collect herself. 

"Tai spotted that the tree was falling so he told his friends to run," said Boom Caverhill.

"He couldn't save himself."

She recalled how excited Tai was before the camping trip, carefully packing his bags and buying instant noodles to share with his friends. She had to go pick up those same bags from the RCMP. 

Tai has a sister who is two years younger. Their mother says she is deeply impacted by Tai's death and has spent the last days crying in her room. (Boom Caverhill)

Backbone of the family

Caverhill is from Thailand and moved to Canada with her husband, who is from B.C., a few years before Tai was born. Tai was named after Caverhill's home country, she said.

The teen's mother described Tai as a huge support to the family, especially to his younger sister Lanna, who has been deeply affected by her brother's death. 

Lanna, 11, was born with tuberous sclerosis — a rare genetic disease that causes tumours to grow in the brain and on other vital organs. She had brain surgery in 2018.

"Tai is always there for her," Caverhill said. "He helped when Lanna needed support and had to go to the children's hospital, he went with her … he missed school to be there to support Lanna."

The 13-year-old boy had been at Camp Barnard with classmates on the first day of a three-day trip. (CHEK News)

She and her husband — who has also suffered medical issues and has had a heart transplant — put their hopes in Tai.

"I put my expectations that he would be taking care of [his sister] if something happened to me or my husband," Caverhill said.

"He was healthy and perfect. So when this happened — my heart is just broken."

Caverhill runs a daycare and said her son was always willing to help take care of the younger children.

He recently started working at a local restaurant to help support his family financially.

Tai pictured with his younger sister Lanna. Their mother said they were very close and Tai was always there for his sister. (Boom Caverhill)

"I still get kisses from him in the morning before he goes to school every day, even though he is 13. He still needs a kiss goodnight every night," she said.

"He's always my little boy."

The family held a Buddhist ceremony on Sunday to remember Tai, which was attended by more than 100 people. A funeral will be held Saturday. 

"When I have questions sometimes about, 'Why my son?' I try to put [in mind] that he saved other friends for a purpose, maybe those friends will achieve something important in the future," Caverhill said.

"He's a hero to me."

Tai was a 'gentle soul' and loved by everyone who met him, says his mother Boom Caverhill. ( Boom Caverhill)

'Loving parents, loving kid'

Aoy Broome, a family friend who's known Tai since he was two, said the close-knit Thai community has come together since the accident.

"It's really hard," she said.

"He has really loving parents, and that's what I see in Tai: he is such a loving kid."

Broome started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help the family. Half the donations will go to Tuberous Sclerosis Canada.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.