Toddler dies at Sauk County campground during MDA Freedom Ride
Police waiting for autopsy results
Updated: Monday, 19 Jul 2010, 7:13 AM CDT
Published : Monday, 19 Jul 2010, 7:13 AM CDT

A family camping trip turns tragic after the death of a toddler at a local park. At this time, police do not know how the 16-month-old died.

"This is all for a good cause," said Josh Pap. "And it's a shame that something like this happens."

It was supposed to be a weekend of fond memories and charity. But, that all quickly changed Saturday afternoon.

This weekend bikers from across the area gathered in Prairie du Sac for the MDA Freedom Ride, which raises money for Muscular Dystrophy. When the bikers returned from the ride around 3:00, emergency officials were already at the VFW Park Campground for a report of an unresponsive toddler. When they arrived, bystanders were performing CPR on a 16-month-old boy.

Witnesses say the toddler was taken out of a car-trailer. They also say it only had one window, and it was closed.

The toddler was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. According to police, the boy and his family are from the Mauston area, and the family was camping at the Park.

"I saw it all," said Rebecca Haag, who was on the MDA Freedom Ride.

She returned as EMS was responding.

"Everybody was like sick to their stomach. Sad. There was a lot of people crying."

Police do not want to speculate about the cause of death until an autopsy report is complete.

When the investigation wraps up, the case will go to the Sauk County District Attorney.


Police investigate death of toddler at campground
By Tim Damos and Jeremiah Tucker / Capital Newspapers | Posted: Monday, July 19, 2010 11:03 pm |

PRAIRIE DU SAC The Sauk County coroner says the preliminary cause of death of a toddler at a campground Saturday is heat exposure, and police are seeking public assistance in investigating the incident.

Sauk Prairie Police Chief Jerry Strunz said authorities are in the process of interviewing people who were at the VFW Campground in Prairie du Sac when the boy, identified Monday as 16-month-old Tanner Lee Nelson of Mauston, was found unresponsive.

The campground was filled with those who attended the weekend's Freedom Ride, an annual charity motorcycle ride that benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Wisconsin.

"The MDA ride brings in a large crowd from a large area and many from out of state, so we're trying to talk to as many of those people as possible," Strunz said in a phone interview Monday, adding that the incident occurred on the north end of the park in what he referred to as the "overflow camping area."

Strunz stated in a news release that someone notified first responders of an unresponsive child at the campground around 2:39 p.m. Saturday. Sauk Prairie EMS arrived at 2:43 p.m. and took over life-saving efforts from a female who was performing CPR on Tanner, the release said.

Kevin Sarto, director of the Sauk Prairie Ambulance Service, said he'd heard it was the boy's mother who called 911, but he wasn't certain. He declined to discuss Tanner's condition when EMS arrived at the scene, but despite the temperature climbing to the high 80s, he said it was the only heat-related call the service responded to Saturday.

Ambulance workers transported Tanner to Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 3:18 p.m.

Coroner Betty Hinze said Monday the boy was asleep in the family's trailer when it was very warm. Hinze said the trailer had an air conditioning unit, but police are investigating whether it malfunctioned.

More than 1,400 bikers were in Sauk Prairie for the Freedom Ride, said Crystal Mundt, general manager for Sauk Prairie Harley Davidson, which hosts the event. Mundt said the Harley dealership managed the campground over the weekend because it's the official camping spot for the two-day event.

"What happened was a horrible accident," Mundt said, adding that it had nothing to do with the Freedom Ride. She said she wouldn't comment on what happened to the boy because she wasn't there.

Strunz said he is withholding certain details about the incident at the request of the Sauk County District Attorney's Office because it is important that witnesses who might come forward not be tainted by anything they might have heard or read about the boy's death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.