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Nightline - Boy Scout Tragedy (FL Everglades hike)

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ABC Nightline's did a report on 17yr old Life Scout Michael Adelman's death on 20 mile Everglades hike and his parent's lawsuit against SM's, CO, and BSA.

 

Text with video

http://abcnews.go.com/US/boy-scout-death-20-mile-hike-heat/story?id=11861418

 

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/boy-scout-death-12635667

 

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This makes for a sensational story, but it is missing so much information that would allow one to form a reasonable opinion.

 

First and foremost, what was the cause of death? Was it heatstroke, or was it some other, unknown medical condition? Living in Florida, I would expect that this was not the first time these folks had undertaken hikes in these conditions. If it was heat stroke, it seems unusual that he would have gone from minor, non-specific complaints and being able to hike to collapsing and respiratory failure so quickly.

 

One statement by one of the adults piqued my interest - "they didn't feel like eating" They didn't need to be eating; they needed to be drinking. How much had the boy drank before becoming ill? Without knowing what happened, this emphasizes the need to make sure that all participants are drinking enough water. That's the big question mark in my mind in this case - this scout was 17 and had been a scout for probably 6 years - Was he not drinking or not reporting more severe symptoms - or did the leaders overlook more severe complaints?(This message has been edited by the blancmange)

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My condolences go out to the family. I pray I never have to deal with this situation in any capacity ever.

 

That said, there si alot of stuff on other forums about this lawsuit. Lots of questions are being asked that are legit and are not answered in this article. Info that is out there si also missing, i.e. he had a physical doen within the past 3 months, no autopsy was done, etc.

 

Lots of questions.

 

One thing mentioned in the article ticked me off: the death in the Grand Canyon. The news stated it is for expert hikers, well my question is Why can't a 15 yo with heavy backpacking training and experience be considered an expert? Heck I know I had adults listening with apt attention to my 13 y.o. den chief when he was talking about gear to bring on a camping trip becasue he had the KSAs and they didn't!

 

 

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Almost all the comments that were posted after the print story linked to the video were in support of the scouts. As noted, far too vague and, as usual, sensationalized.

 

There now appears to be another mode of attack by those who would bring the BSA down; "death by a thousand pricks". Find whatever negative thing they can, then make sure that it gets featured in a very negative way to as many as possible. And do not even attempt to bring balance to the story.

 

As was pointed out a number of times in the comments mentioned, scouting activities are overall "far" safer than other youth activities. But they still are hardly ever featured in these kind of stories.

 

All we can do is continue to try and be as safe as we can, make sure we do not attempt things we are not trained and prepared for, and always be super aware of how our charges are acting and following proper procedures. But, no matter how hard we try, we will not eliminate all accidents or unforeseen health issues. Unless, of course, we simply do nothing at all that may have even a hint of danger. But then they will accuse us of making the kids even more unhealthy and prone to health problems, because we do not get them active enough.

 

Very tiresome and disheartening.

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First and foremost until the actual cause of death is verified it is improper to point fingers. The three National reps interviewed did a horrible job, IMO, not owning up to sometimes things happen, instead just saying I wasn't in my position then or I wasn't there. Anyone who has been a scout leader can tell you of one or more times when a scout got sick or injured on an outing and the procedures for handling that situation. The 2005 Jamboree clip really showed National to be out of touch and ill prepared with the heat situation.

 

To me this interview really cast the BSA officials and organization in a bad light, unresponsive, untrustworthy, and unknowledgeable. Indeed if these two scoutmasters continued to push the boys after noticing them starting to show signs of heat stroke then this lawsuit will be another slamdunk against scouting.

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I feel for the family going through this unthinkable sorrow.. Unfortunately they had a son at the rank of Life, and they themselves never took the time to understand the program. They unfortunutly saw the SM as a fully trained professional, instead of understanding that the SM is a parent just like themselves who have volunteered to be the leader of a group of boys and one of the leaders of those other parents of the boys in the unit who want to help.

 

That the BSA offers training, but not to the extent of being professiona paramedics due to the balance of how much they can force training and not lose their volunteer pool..

 

Unfortunately I fear these parents were little more the drop off parents, just by their lack of understanding a program their son has been involved in for (I forget the exact number of years they mentioned, but I think at least 8 years or more.)

 

It doesn't make their tragedy any less sad, it just to me makes it doubly sad they did not understand that their $100 - $200 dollars a year program is not the same as the $2000+ a week program with highly trained professionals.

 

It does though stress why troops should choose their SM wisely, and why they should also push that they take the training offered by BSA.. Although this SM could have been extremely well trained.. It did state they they did CPR on the boy until the paramedics arrived. I don't see total neglect like leaving him there while they continued the hike, with plans to collect him when done, or sitting and doing nothing until the paramedics arrived.

 

It would have been nice for them to call on the family as soon as they returned though.. The lack of contact means either the parents were already screaming they were at fault and they heard through a 3rd party, or they did feel somewhat guilty over something.

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Unfortunately this is the state of modern TV journalism -- crafting a compelling tale is more important than the facts, much less, fairness or balance.

 

I agree the three BSA folks were remarkably ill prepared.(although I'll cut them some slack and assume all their good answer were omitted.) This is another example of BSA being back on its heels on defensive instead of being out front, telling its story. They had such a great opportunity to hit a homerun:

 

Yes, BSA learned from its mistakes at the 2005 Jamboree and instituted major changes to its health & safety program at the 2010 jambo, including comprehensive planning for heat emergencies; we have comprehensive and progressive training for leaders at all levels for most major Scout activities -- swimming, boating, climbing, hiking, even a specific course on weather hazards; and twenty years ago BSA was out front among youth organizations in the area of child abuse prevention by training its to recognize abuse and developing systems and procedures to avoid it.

 

Still, accidents happen and on very rare and tragic occasions, fatal accidents happen. But the most dangerous part of a Scout outing is the drive to and from the event. Which, by the way, BSA has training and procedures in place to minimize automobile accidents.

 

We as an organization should be proud of our safety record. In 10 years of Scouting with hundreds of boys I've seen a fraction of the injuries during Scout activities than the 30 boys on my son's football team experienced in just four months this fall. Although I question his information, the parents' lawyer in the Nightline piece cited "a half-dozen deaths going back to the 1990s". Really? Six fatalities in 20 years out of millions and millions of Scouts? That's remarkably low. If correct, scouts are statstically more likely to die in their sleep that at a Scout activity. Wow.

 

On the other side, I will add to something Moose mentioned -- BSA does need a better procedure for dealing with such tragedies on a personal level. In no way do I fault the Scoutmaster who apparently called the family the following afternoon. That had to be incredibly difficult and showed great character. However, councils or maybe even regions need to have trained teams to deal with such situations. At minimum, the local Scout Executive, someone trained to deal with grief and possibly the minister from the CO should have made contact with the family, offered any resources they had available and followed through with the family over the coming weeks. Most importantly, it's the right thing to do. But it is also a smart thing to do. When families have a personal connection with an organization and feel the organization cares, they are much less likely to point fingers. Clearly, the Scouting community does care and feels this family's loss but there needs to be methods in place so the family understands that and doesn't feel abandonded by the scouts.(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)

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I was curious about this, so I did some more research. Here is a copy of the legal complaint for anyone interested: http://media.naplesnews.com/media/static/Stamped_Boy_Scout_Complaint.pdf

 

Some random facts of interest:

- The Scout, Michael Sclawy-Adelman, apparently had 2 64 oz. water bladders at the start of the hike according to a park ranger report

- He was 5'6" and 210 lbs. This is just above the disqualifying weight on the height/weight guidelines being discussed in the medical form thread. (Note that I am not making any statement about the presence or lack of any causal connection between his weight and cause of death, just thought it was worth noting).

- No autopsy was performed due to religious objections from his family

- He had earned 39 merit badges

- He was awarded Eagle Scout posthumously. The only requirement he had not completed was the leadership project. Apparently he had planned some sort of bird habitat for injured birds and the scouts from his troop completed the project after his death.

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Thanks Blanc

 

That is indeed an interesting and detailed complaint which does show some negligence on the part of the scoutmasters. I am NO legal expert but in this day and age with the right jury and if all the facts in the complaint are true the BSA, the church and these two leaders will be the big losers financially. These two guys will probably lose their positions in scouting and their reputations will be ruined for a very long time in the troop, the church, and their community. The BSA will come across as the big villian allowing poorly trained adults to put kids in harms way. It will be interesting to see where this case goes.

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Not being a lawyer, I am amazed at the redundancies in the charges. I also really wonder how they can even list some of them, especially those lodged against the church. Certainly, proving that the hike was not "planned" properly, and that proper procedures were not followed may be the crux of the trial. I cannot imagine them doing this hike without having done preliminary hikes and considerable preparation and planning. And, of course, the idea that someone should not undertake this because it was hot is ludicrous, or at least to me. Still, they are counting on the jury falling for the sympathy card, and also the idea that BSA has deep pockets.

 

JMO at this juncture, based on reading the charge as posted.

 

Would be interested in the comments, off the record of course, of our resident legal experts.

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First, in reference to te court document, they are going to alledge any kind on negligence that they can think of. They have to because if they don't put it in the complaint they can't bring it up later.

 

Second, if you read the complaint it says the temp was over 100, yet the news report says a high of 92. That 10 degree's is a big difference.

 

This is only the first piece of paper filed, its a long way before anything is settled. Its all about money with these parents, thats all they are asking for.

 

Lawyer, can't live with, can't live without them

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A quick weather history search for both Everglades City and Copeland, FL show the high for May 9, 2009 at 89.5 F. Humidity was very high, at 96% which is what I would expect.

 

Some things in the complaint are ridiculous, IMO - they didn't have proper communication devices?

 

If the complaint is correct (and it doesn't appear to be, looking at the temperature claim) and they stopped for 1 1/2 hours before calling for help and the Scout was continually getting worse, that is surprising.

 

As others have said, lots of unanswered questions.

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I don't know, guys, I read the complaint too and it seems like standard boilerplate to me. I don't know more now than before.

 

It does not mention any new information, pretty much what you would assume for any situation like this -- negligent planning of the hike, negligence in conducting the hike, faliure to notice symptoms of heat stroke, failure to adequately treat heat stroke, etc. Essentially, these guys were in charge and the young man died.

 

The real issues, what should they have or have not done and what did the do or not do aren't addressed at this point in the process.

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I also sympathize with the grief the parents feel, what a tragedy! And I suspect it was preventable but as everyone notes, until more info is out, these conclusions are premature.(This message has been edited by packsaddle)

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I've been thinking about that report ever since I watched it...I rarely watch Nightline, I just caught it while channel surfing.

 

My wife and I both watched the report...in total silence...and we have talked about it since.

 

IMO, there were many levels of failure ... from the parents through to the BSA.

 

The parents put blind faith in the BSA and the adult leaders. That was their mistake.

 

The adult leaders obviously did not recognize the fundamental symptoms of heatstroke, nor what to do about it. The also failed to immediately call for assistance.

 

BSA obviously failed to adequately train these particular adult leaders on what do to in an emergency.

 

I too thought the responses by the BSA representatives was atrocious at best.... "I wasn't on the job at that time..." bad answer.

 

It's an interesting dilemma...as parents, we are supposed to be "hands off" Scouting unless we are adult leaders, but it's obvious that not all of the leaders are competent and cannot be trusted with the safety of our boys.

 

================

 

This event could not have come at a more opportune time for us. We've been contemplating whether or not to allow our scout to participate in a canoeing trip that involves deep-water activities. Given his physical capabilities and swimming skill level, I am now definitely pushing that he not be allowed to participate.

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