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Nightline - Boy Scout Tragedy (FL Everglades hike)

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So now we're second-guessing parents and physicians who sign the medical forms verifying the Scouts are physically fit to participate in Scout activities? I apparently went out for coffee during the segment of SM training where they taught us assess the physical condition of boys and to read between the lines of a medical form.

 

This sorta makes the trailside diagnosis and treatment of medical emeregencies seem easy.

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>>>>>>>BP, along with what you said, I would give a written statement outlining a non-all inclusive list of risks associated with any event or outing that the scouts may participate in and have a waiver of liability signed by the parents and notarized

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My intent was to be over the top in my comments with the waiver of liability/permission slips and list of risks. The list of risks would be endless. My point is that people need to take personal responsiblility. People are going to sue people whether it's warranted or not and lawyers are going to be there to represent both parties.

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Twocub

 

Now you are just being melodramatic, as usual. If a SM has a 250lb 5'6" scout who he knows has some serious medical issues and takes him out for a 20 mile hike in the wilderness he better reconsider no matter what paper he has from an MD. Most doctor appointments these days last 10-15 minutes and because of patient loads many doctors are not as thorough as they might be. The kid goes in tells the doc he feels fine and needs a paper signed to go on a hike with his troop, unless he is experiencing some symptoms the doc will probably sign it. That still doesn't get the SM off the hook when he knows how rough a hike might be for a particular scout. It is not "second guessing" the doctor it is just using common sense, which more leaders like the one in Florida needed to do.

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Clemlaw wrote:

 

And philosophically, I don't think it's [waivers] the right thing to do. If some Scouter truly is negligent in some particular case, then compensating the victims of that negligence is the right thing to do.

I agree entirely. Run the best, safest program you can, and if someone messes up and someone else gets hurt, make it right. Who is in the best position to absorb the financial hardship of such an injury, the organization as a whole, or an individual participant?

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Twocub Now you are just being melodramatic,

 

You betcha! But not nearly as melodramatic as the original "Nightline Invesitgates" piece. :)

 

Of the Scoutmaster, parents and physician, which of the three is in THE WORST position to judge the fitness of the young man?

 

And don't tell me only the Scoutmaster understands the physical requirements for the activity! In the words of Col. Sherman T. Potter, horse hockey. Is there anyone with a fifth grade geography education who doesn't understand the implications of a 20-mile summertime hike through the Everglades? Anyone who doesn't will be disqualified from jury service for mental defect.

 

The new/now old medical forms, just above above the physician signature, states, "I certify that I have, today, reviewed the health history, examined this person, and aprove this inndividual for participation in:" and then lists 12 separate activities, including hiking and camping, wilderness/backcountry treks and climbing and rappelling. The doc has to affirmatively check each activity for it to be allowed.

 

And the Lord knows we've all dealt with parents with their own agenda or a really distorted idea of what is best for their boy. I've had parents leave stuff off medical forms because they didn't want us to hold their sons condition "against him." I've had parents include only that their son takes polysillyastroturfplopinephrine or some dang thing as if I'm supposed to know that this med is the only thing which keeps the boy from going postal on the whole troop or immediately dropping dead. And knowing these parents, I know they intentionally obfuscated their son's medical situation for their own reasons.

 

Of course, B-P, I'm going to question hard sending a 250lb. marshmallow on a challenging backcountry trek. But if it gets to the point of the SM making that call, something is terribly, terribly, and possibly tragically wrong with the other folks in that boy's life who also have responsibility for his health and well-being.

 

Me taking another two days of vaction time to get WFA training won't fix that.

 

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With no autopsy we are just speculating. for all we know he could have had a congenital heart or blood vessel defect.

 

 

If the family is gonna sue, the courts should require an autopsy.

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Twocub

 

Going all over the place once again and missing the target. Bottomline, the SM has the final say in the matter even with a doctors note. If he has any serious doubts about a scouts ability or condition for any activity he can tell him to sit this one out rather than letting a boy put himself in jeopardy. In this particular case I think the parents and the scout would have understood if the SM had made that decision.

 

Basement- there will probably be no autopsy because I read or saw somewhere that the family are conservative/orthodox Jews who do not allow autopsies for religious reasons and are required to bury their dead within 24 hours.

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Seems unfair for the suit to proceed without an autopsy. After all, the defendant deserves the right to have all evidence used for their defense.

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No one has answered my question about the water availability on such a hike. Is this all non potable water, or is some of it potable with proper treatment? I am not familiar with the area, but reading a bit about it, it says something about a freshwater outlet to the ocean. That is the reason for my query. Thanks.

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I found this report on the incident from the National Park Service:

 

http://media.naplesnews.com/media/static/Park_Service_Report.pdf

 

It's hard to read, and I think it's safe to say that some mistakes were made. It sounds like they were short on water. When other Scouts arrived at the end of the trail, they were very thirsty. (Of course, they had probably been moving pretty fast, since they were sent to get help and/or water, it looks like). Also, the Scoutmaster was reported as being very hot, thirsty, out of breath, etc., but he had been doing CPR.

 

The hike began at "Oasis Visitor Center", which appears to be this building:

 

http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/01/27/b7/d6/oasis-visitor-center.jpg

 

They met there at 7 AM, and began the hike at 8:30 AM. According to its website, the visitor center opens at 9:00, but there is apparently a log where people can sign in. So chances are, there was no opportunity to check in with rangers before the hike, but they didn't start out from a remote area--the starting point was a modern building with running water, on a US Highway.

 

They apparently hiked to "Ten Mile Camp" and it looks like they returned via the same route.

 

Here's a link to a map:

 

http://www.nps.gov/pwr/customcf/apps/maps/showmap.cfm?alphacode=bicy&parkname=Big%20Cypress%20National%20Preserve

 

I assume that "Ten Mile Camp" is the camping symbol about ten miles north of the visitor center.

 

It looks like the second picture on the following page (the picture with four people at a campsite) is on the same route, between "Oasis Visitor Center" and "Ten Mile Camp", to give you some idea of the terrain:

 

http://j-net-x.blogspot.com/2007_01_01_archive.html

 

From the discussion on that page, it looks like the presence of water that can be filtered is iffy. It looks like this Scout had six liters with him, and had drunk it all.

 

From the Googling that I did, it looks like a very challenging hike. I found a few journals of people hiking the Florida trail, and it looks like they would have perhaps gone 10-15 miles in a day in that area. (But of course, that allows time to set up camp at the end of the day, as opposed to having an air-conditioned car parked at a building with a drinking fountain.)

 

It looks like it's definitely a lot more challenging than a 20-mile hike on the shoulder of a highway. But on the other hand, it's not in the remote wilderness. For me, the heat would be an extreme challenge, but I'm not from Florida, so I don't know whether a local would consider it so. From one of the websites I read about the area, there is a "hiking season", and this hike was not during that season.

 

Frankly, from looking at these reports, and looking at a couple of accounts of other hikers, it sounds like this might have been too challenging for an overweight Scout, particularly if there's not a guaranteed source of water along the way.

 

Hindsight is 20/20, and as I read this, I'm guessing that this Scout's life might have been saved if they had cached water along the route, since it looks like they were returning along the same route. But that's 20/20 hindsight--I don't know if I would have done anything differently from these leaders.

 

 

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Interestin' documentation, clemlaw. Thanks for takin' the time.

 

So da things that stood out for me were (in no particular order):

 

-- The boy had a gallon and a half of water, and had drunk most of it by the time of the incident. That seems like reasonably adequate intake.

-- The boy had lots of granola/powerbar type things, and had eaten almost none of 'em. That doesn't seem like adequate intake.

-- The lad was gone well before rescuers arrived.

-- There's no mention of vomiting in the reports, unlike da popular press reports. Instead there's mention of possible airway obstruction ("snoring") prior to respiratory arrest.

-- The lad was workin' on Hiking MB piecemeal. It had been "more than a couple of months" since his last 10-mile training hike.

-- Cell phone reception was spotty. While the adult at the scene was eventually able to get a call out for help, the responders were not able to contact him again, and ended up obtaining directions to the incident site from the scouter who had hiked out for water/help.

-- As often happens, it's hard to manage resources during an incident. The two other boys and one other adult leader left and continued down the trail, hiking independently, leaving only one adult leader with the boy having difficulty.

-- Da trail is on a limestone karst ridge in that area, and is dry, with no available water.

-- The boy was nearing 18 and needed the MB for Eagle, which may have driven the decision to hike in the early summer season.

-- The lad's father did his MB prep work for the hike, not the boy.

-- There is nothing in the report that suggests the lad was symptomatic at the 10-mile point.

-- The adults turned down the offer of victim/survivor services from the park and county authorities.

 

-----

 

Yah, hmmm...

 

So here we have a lad under time pressure to finish Hiking MB because his 18th birthday is approaching. The lad is out of shape, doin' the final 20 mile hike for the merit badge many months after his last prep hike (which undoubtedly was in cooler weather). That's a major factor, since physiological acclimatization to heat requires 8-10 days of exercise. His dad did at least some of the MB work for the boy, including the preparation/planning work for the 20 mile hike.

 

The boy seems to have been carrying adequate water and drinking it, but not eating. The group as a whole had adequate water, but not excess. The trail is not that remote, they were doing an out-and-back hike, and the incident occurred around five miles from a well-developed trailhead with a visitor's center.

 

At that point on the return leg, the lad got really weak and couldn't go farther. They stopped to rest, but realized fairly quickly that there was a problem, and one adult and the other two boys were sent for help and water. Cell phone reception in the area was at best spotty, and the three sent for help/water (especially the adult) seem to have "booked it" down the trail.

 

Some time after they had left, the boy became unresponsive and went into respiratory arrest from causes unknown. Could have been airway obstruction secondary to exhaustion, could have been heat stroke, could have been hyponatremia. Of the set, I might guess the latter based on the apparent lack of heat acclimatization and lots of water consumption with little food. The one adult left at the scene started CPR, but we have no measure of how effective it was. Desperate, that scouter eventually successfully got a cell phone call out for help, perhaps when pausing CPR from fatigue.

 

I do see some lessons here, but I'm not sure I see negligence, eh? The leaders and other members seem to have been prepared for the hike (and successful in completing it). And they seem to have responded reasonably given their level of experience and trainin'.

 

The lessons would be understandin' hyponatremia and the role proper acclimatization plays in preventin' it.

The lessons might also include scene and resource management durin' an incident. Leavin' the poor SM by himself with the victim wasn't the best use of resources, eh? Sometimes I think we worry about supervision and no one-on-one to the point of being dangerous. And da folks goin' for help got a bit strung out as well.

Another lesson might be that yeh should avail yourself of victim's services when yeh can. Don't turn down help when this sort of hard thing occurs.

 

The last lesson is perhaps da hardest, eh? It's important for the boys who are doin' wilderness travel to do the planning themselves. They need to know requirement #1: recognizing and responding to heat illness, in themselves and others. They need to know how to plan food and drink properly themselves, because they need to know how to use that food and drink in the field. They need to do da planning for fitness and acclimatization for the badge because they need to understand da reason for it. Yeh can't just tick off the last box in the "partial" many months later.

 

Beavah

 

(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Hind sight 20/20 reminds me of the 7 Ps - Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. May or may not be applicable in this situation but it made me think of it nonetheless.

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And don't forget that the folks who had the most and best opportunity to judge the boys fitness level(his Parents) stated he was "fit".

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If you read the whole NPS report line by line, some things don't add up.

 

The father says his son is fit, described as 5'6, 210lbs, all muscle. That doesn't sound like an out of shape youth to me.

 

They started hiking at 830am, and the incidint took place sometime between 5pm and 6pm. Thats 8-9 hrs, to do 20 miles thats not even stressing. Seems like they were not pushing it very hard at all.

 

 

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