Manitoban killed in campground accident loved outdoors, had big plans after recent retirement, family says

A Winnipeg family is mourning the death of a man who they say loved the outdoors, after he was killed when a storm blew a tree onto the tent he was sleeping in at an eastern Manitoba campground earlier this week.

Mel McIntyre’s son, Chad McIntyre, says his dad was his best friend and a man who loved his three children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. 

Mel was sleeping in his tent in a campground in Manigotagan, on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, about 150 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

The loss is devastating loss for the entire family, said Chad, especially because his dad had just retired about four months ago, after spending 33 years with the City of Winnipeg, working with pools and in forestry, including cutting trees.

“He loved being outdoors. He loves camping,” Chad said. “He was just ready to enjoy his time.… That’s what he was doing. That’s why he was out there.”

Mel had a “bucket list” of things he wanted to do — like riding a scooter for the first time and going to Cuba — said his oldest daughter, Trish Gutierrez.

Camping at new and different places was also one of his goals.

“A lot of it was what he could do outside — like fishing, canoeing, rafting, all that kind of stuff,” Gutierrez said. “He was just willing to live life to its fullest.… The possibilities should have been endless for him.”

Two men and two women pose for a photo in fancy clothes.
Mel McIntyre, right, poses for a photo with his three children: Trish Gutierrez, Chad McIntyre and Tabitha Zenuik. (Submitted by McIntyre family)

Chad said two days before the trip, his dad told him he was going camping at Mantago Bay RV Park and Campground — a spot he’d never been to.

A major storm late Sunday night brought heavy winds that downed trees and powerlines.

Just after midnight on Monday, Powerview RCMP got a report of a sudden death at a private campground located in Manigotagan Provincial Park, police previously said. 

Officers were told a tree had fallen onto a tent where a man and woman were sleeping, said RCMP media relations officer Sgt. Paul Manaigre.

The woman was able to call for help, he said.

“Some campers from the nearby sites came to assist, and they actually had to use a chainsaw to free up the woman” from the tent, said Manaigre.

When they tried to help the man, they discovered he had been fatally injured.

Sherri Mayne, who was in the tent with McIntyre, wasn’t physically injured. She later called the family to tell them what had happened to Mel, they said.

“It was very hard for me to process,” Gutierrez said. “It was very hard to believe it was true.”

A man and woman sit on a scooter.
McIntyre and Sherri Mayne sit on a scooter. Mayne was in the tent with McIntyre when the tree fell on it, but she wasn’t physically hurt. Gutierrez says riding a scooter was one of the things on her father’s post-retirement ‘bucket list.’ (Submitted by McIntyre family)

Chad says the family wants to thank first responders for trying to help their dad, but would like more information from RCMP to better understand what happened. The majority of what they know about the accident is from RCMP social media posts and an acquaintance who happened to be at the campground, he said.

“We found out more information from our cousin’s friend,” said Tabitha Zenuik, Mel’s daughter. “He and his wife are the ones that cut open the tent and got my dad’s lady friend out, and cut the tree to try and get my dad.”

Zenuik says a celebration of life for her father will take place soon.

For now, they just want answers, Gutierrez said. From there her family can figure out the next steps in their grief.

A man stands by a red car.
Mel was trying to live life to the fullest after retiring four months ago, says his son. (Submitted by McIntyre family)

Mel loved the great outdoors because it made him feel free, Zenuik said. As children, they grew up going to Winnipeg Beach with their parents, who were married for 35 years, until their mom died seven years ago. It’s a tradition they’ve continued with their kids.

“He was just an outdoors kind of guy. He worked in it for years,” she said. “It’s his home.”

He was also hugely supportive of his grandkids — “he was always there cheering them on,” said Zenuik — and of his own kids, each of whom he walked down the aisle for their weddings.

Zenuik says it’s something special they all share as his children.

“He was our rock,” she said.