Falling branch a 'tragic accident'
The death of an infant on a windy hiking trail devastates a Maunawili couple and relatives
Thirteen-month-old Rylee Kealohilani Egbert loved to go on hikes with her family.
But on Sunday morning a large falling tree branch struck and killed her on a family hike along the Maunawili Trail.
Rylee's uncle, E.J. MacNaughton, called it a "freak accident."
"This is a tragic accident that no one could have foreseen," he said.
It wasn't windy when the Egberts, Maunawili residents, and visiting relatives set out Sunday morning on a hike they had taken many times "right behind their house," MacNaughton said.
The family took a hike with Robert Egbert's brother, his wife and two children, visiting from Washington state for the holidays, and their dogs.
The Egberts planned to hike, swim and hang out, MacNaughton said.
But while on the trail, the winds picked up and were gusting at 33 to 38 mph on Windward Oahu.
Rylee was seated in a child carrier on the back of her father, Robert Egbert, when the branch hit both of them, MacNaughton said.
Egbert is an experienced outdoorsman, and "there's absolutely nothing he could do," MacNaughton said.
Rylee was unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse, an Emergency Medical Services supervisor said. She was airlifted to Castle Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
Her parents, Robert and Brigitte Egbert, are devastated at losing their only child, MacNaughton said.
"They're very rocked," he said. "She always had the biggest smile on her face. She brought joy to everybody that met her."
"Rylee was very much into doing things outdoors and having fun," MacNaughton said. "That's where she was happiest."
A private memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at the MacNaughton Estate at Puu Panini.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Rylee's name to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 1019 Waimanu St., Suite 214, Honolulu 96814. Rylee did not have diabetes, but the family wants to help other children, MacNaughton said.