The deer hunting death of Timothy Bruce, 42, of Ashville on Dec. 7 is a tragedy all area hunters should reflect upon each time they venture into the woods in search of game.
Bruce's death could have been avoided; that's a given.
But authorities say they've found no reason to suspect that the shooting was anything but accidental.
Therefore, Matthew Scott Nadolsky, 29, of Windber, who fired the fatal shot amid unanticipated circumstances, also must be regarded as a victim of this unfortunate event.
That he also is a victim has nothing to do with the punishment Cambria County Court eventually might mete out to him.
He is charged with the misdemeanor offense of shooting at or causing injury to a human while hunting. The investigation identified that charge as the most serious justified by the facts of the case.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission, which filed the charge, indicated it is not interested in pursuing jail time for Nadolsky. That decision seems correct, although some people might disagree.
Investigators say evidence confirms that Bruce's death was the result of an accidental shooting.
As Game Commission spokesman Tom Fazi pointed out, if there had been any belief that the shooting of Bruce was intentional, Nadolsky would have been arrested long ago.
Nevertheless, for Nadolsky, the death of his friend and hunting companion is destined to repeat itself over and over again in his mind, as no doubt has happened since that terrible day nearly three months ago.
Nadolsky's crime, if people choose to use that term, is that he was guilty of a response that became terribly wrong, resulting from an unexpected turn of events.
He and Bruce were the drivers for a nine-member hunting party, guiding deer toward the other hunters, when, suddenly, the deer ran back toward them.
Nadolsky reacted too quickly, without properly assessing the situation. He fired two shots, one of them fatally wounding Bruce.
Although having to live with the horrid memories of what occurred, Nadolsky must not allow the tragic event to consume his existence to the point of ruining his future.
It's to be hoped that Bruce's family has been understanding and sympathetic of Nadolsky's burden, while dealing with the personal tragedy of their own.
Courts have a difficult task in tragic cases such as this, and the judge in charge will have the option of considering input from Bruce's family prior to handing down punishment.
Meanwhile, the fatal incident has produced many other victims besides Bruce and Nadolsky, including family and friends of the two men, among them other members of the hunting party on that tragic day.
Those other hunting party members probably never again will view hunting in the way that they did prior to Dec. 7.
The hunting community has followed developments in this tragic case and should heed the lessons from it - the main one being that one wrong instant can mean many years of sorrow and anguish.
The need for caution can never be overemphasized.