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NC regulators shut down Trails Carolina camp after 12-year-old boy dies

Overhead map
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The site of Trails Carolina, a camp in western North Carolina

A therapeutic teen wilderness camp in the North Carolina mountains has been ordered to release campers and halt new admissions following the death of a child on Feb. 3. The order issued Friday by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services cites concern for the health and safety of children at the Trails Carolina camp, about 50 miles southwest of Asheville.

The camp bills itself as a wilderness therapy program for troubled children and teens. The state has not identified the child who died or released details about the death. Its website was behind a password as of Friday afternoon. The state says parents have been notified and campers have temporarily been taken into care by the local department of social services.

"The death at Trails Carolina is tragic and concerning. We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and loved ones of the child who died, and commit to them that we are conducting a thorough investigation with our county partners and will take every appropriate step based on the outcome of our and other investigations," the state DHHS said in a statement.

According to media reports and a search warrant, a 12-year-old boy was discovered dead less than 24 hours after arriving at the camp. He was cold and stiff, investigators said. His pants and underpants had been removed. Camp staff told investigators they didn't know what lead to his death. An autopsy is expected to shed light on the circumstances of his death in the coming weeks.

In a Feb. 6 statement, Trails Carolina said the camp was "shattered by the tragic loss of a young life."

In 2014, officials said a 17-year-old boy died after he ran away from the camp, fell from a tree and was immobilized. His body was found 12 days later. It makes this month's death the second in a decade.

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal