Jadyn Erin Larky, an 11-year-old girl from the Columbus, Ohio suburb of Bexley, had only just begun her summer at Camp Livingston, one of the country’s oldest active Jewish summer camps. The camp is located in a densely forested area near the Ohio River in southeastern Indiana, and has a beautiful lake on its property.
Jadyn was looking forward to a summer of color wars, playing on the high ropes course, paddling along the river, and, for the first time this year, an overnight campout.
Early Tuesday morning a severe storm passed directly over Camp Livingston. Though no severe thunderstorm warning was given in advance by the National Weather Service, two weather statements warning of a strong thunderstorm were released at 12:30 and 2:30 am.
However, at 2:21 am the local sheriff’s office received a call from Camp Livingston. A bolt of lightning had struck a tree next to Jadyn’s cabin, causing a large part of it to fall and crush half the cabin. Though her counselors and fellow campers were able to escape unscathed, Jadyn was seriously injured, and she died after emergency responders arrived at the scene.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the camp, the Columbus Jewish community, and, most of all, Jadyn’s family. Her younger sister, Elliot also attends the camp. Her mother, Liza Yarov Larky, is a career adviser at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, and her father, Howard Larky is an anesthesiologist in Zanesville, Ohio, according to his Facebook page.
Jadyn was a student at Cassingham Elementary, a public school in Bexley, OH. She also attended Hebrew school at Tifereth Israel, a conservative synagogue in Columbus. She is being remembered, on social media and at her memorial page, as a bright, curious, and sweet child.
The mayor of Bexley, Ben Kessler, said that Bexley is a close-knit community with many young families.
“The sense of grief is palpable,” he said. “Right now we’re just trying to support the family any way we can.”
Grief counselors were sent to the camp Tuesday morning, and the Columbus JCC is offering grief counseling as well.
Friends and relatives have been sharing their shock and sadness on social media, as well as on Jadyn’s memorial page.
“Jayden was such a sweet girl, polite and kind,” wrote Shirly Benatar, an educator in the Columbus Jewish community. “She always volunteered to lead Hatikvah in Hebrew school, and would jump up and down when I handed her the lollipop for leading.”
“We are all having trouble not crying because we know but for circumstances this could be our child,” Kyle Katz, family friend, told Fox 19 TV in Columbus
Camp Livingston has suffered the death of a camper before: in 1992, a 15-year-old boy died after a fire broke out in his cabin. Another camp, Camp Tawonga, which serves the Bay Area, was in the news in the summer of 2013 when a tree fell on a group of female counselors, killing one and injuring four others.
Jadyn will be laid to rest in the New Tifereth Israel Cemetery.
The Larky family has set up a memorial fund for Jadyn. Donations can be mailed to the following address:
Jadyn Larky Camp Scholarship Fund
c/o Columbus Jewish Foundation
1175 College Ave
Columbus, OH 43209
Contact Ari Feldman at email@example.com or on Twitter @aefeldman