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BSA Sued over Lightening Death

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My simplistic response was meant to illustrate that in this country, the BSA would need to show that they were NOT negligent instead of the plaintiffs proving negligence was involved. Anytime there's a death/injury in this country, the jury assumes there was negligence involved - that's why there are so many of these cases (they're very easy to win).

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Does anyone have a link to an article that describes this incident in a little more detail? This article says the boy was sitting at a picnic table under a tarp held up by a metal pole. Was he leaning against one of the poles? Was the picnic table metal, and in contact with the metal pole? If not, exactly how did he get electrocuted?


I just read the G2SS on this subject and it does not say anything about sitting under a tarp or in a tent held up by metal poles. To the contrary, it says "In tents, stay at least a few inches from metal tent poles." Which implies that if a tent is the best you can do while a lightning storm is around, ok, just stay a FEW INCHES from the poles. (This assumes that the tent is away from trees that could fall on the tent, which is a different issue dealt with in the G2SS.) If this statement in the G2SS is good advice, then it would seem there was probably more going on than was in this story.


I say all this as someone who was a leader on a camping trip this weekend during which there was lightning in the distance, but it was raining where we were and I have no doubt that we were at risk for lightning. During most of that time we were all under a carport held up by metal poles, many of us sitting in chairs with metal frames, and others sitting at a wooden picnic table.

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Here is a story back the incident occurred:


Boy Scout Killed By Lightning at Camp


The Record of Hackensack ^ | 8.15.02

Posted on 08/15/2002 6:53:57 PM PDT by Coleus

Clifton Scout, 16, killed by lightning EAST STROUDSBURG, Pa. - Lightning struck and killed a 16-year-old at a Boy Scout Camp on Friday night, police said.

Matthew Tresca of Clifton was sitting at a picnic table under a dining tarp with 11 other members of his troop at about 7 p.m. Lightning struck a tent about 10 feet away, knocking Tresca to the ground. Camp personnel tried to revive him before emergency crews arrived. Tresca, a member of Boy Scout Troop 21, was pronounced dead at the Pocono Medical Center.

He had spent the last week at the Resica Falls Boy Scout Camp in Middle Smithfield Township, about 70 miles north of Philadelphia.


Stricken Scout sent others to safety

Moments before he was fatally struck by lightning, a Clifton Boy Scout urged others to seek shelter, the boy's family said Sunday.

Sixteen-year-old Matthew Tresca was on a weeklong camping trip with about a dozen Scouts in Middle Smithfield Township, Pa., when a violent storm moved in about 7 p.m. Friday. Tresca, a senior patrol leader for Troop 21, ordered about six others to leave the picnic area at the Resica Falls Boy Scout Camp.

"Because of him, the other kids are alive," Tresca's uncle, Dan Marshall, said Sunday.

Marshall said Tresca was heading for cover when lightning struck about 8 feet behind him, knocking him into a picnic bench, where he became entangled. A counselor tried to free the boy, who was conscious.

"He said he was OK," he said of his nephew.

At that point Tresca's heart stopped, and efforts to revive him failed. He was pronounced dead at Pocono Medical Center.

Tresca was the eldest of four children. He had attended Don Bosco Technical High School in Paterson until June, when the school disbanded. He was to have started 11th grade at Clifton High School next month.

Marshall recalled his nephew as a well-liked and conscientious boy "with a witty sense of humor."

"He's going to be missed," he said.

(This message has been edited by OldGreyEagle)

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I wrote:


I just read the G2SS on this subject and it does not say anything about sitting under a tarp or in a tent held up by metal poles.


I meant:


I just read the G2SS on this subject and it does not say you should not sit under a tarp or in a tent held up by metal poles.


The version I wrote earlier (in italics above), if taken literally, would be contradicted by my next sentence, which discusses the provision in the G2SS about what to do if you are sitting in a tent (Stay away from metal poles.)

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Thanks OGE.


I am not an expert on lightning nor on the human heart, but this seems odd to me. I do not want to seem like I am minimizing the accidental death of a 16 year old boy which is a tragedy regardless of why it occurs. I guess I am also violating my own rule about speculating about stories posted on the forums and adding facts and then commenting on them. It is just that I have to wonder if this boy perhaps had some undiagnosed heart condition which, when combined with the lightning striking near him, caused his heart to malfunction. I just don't know, maybe I'm wrong.

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Just to complete that thought, and again this does not make this any less of a tragedy, it may well be that this was nobody's fault. The boy could have been crouching in a depression in a field away from any trees, as the G2SS advises, the lightning struck the ground near him, he gets knocked into another boy, and the whole shock (not in the electrical sense) just adds up to enough to stop his heart and by the time anyone figures it out, it's too late. It does happen, fortunately not very often.

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"It is just that I have to wonder if this boy perhaps had some undiagnosed heart condition which, when combined with the lightning striking near him, caused his heart to malfunction. I just don't know, maybe I'm wrong."


A wet ground can conduct electricity. Electrocutions during rainstorms where the lightning strikes NEAR the victin are not rare.




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SaintCad, that sounds logical, but here is what the G2SS says about lightning:


Beware of Lightning


The summits of mountains, crests of ridges, slopes above timberline, and large meadows are extremely hazardous places to be during lightning storms. If you are caught in such an exposed place, quickly descend to a lower elevation, away from the direction of the approaching storm, and squat down, keeping your head low. A dense forest located in a depression provides the best protection. Avoid taking shelter under isolated trees or trees much taller than adjacent trees. Stay away from water, metal objects, and other substances that will conduct electricity long distances.


By squatting with your feet close together, you have minimal contact with the ground, thus reducing danger from ground currents. If the threat of lightning strikes is great, your group should not huddle together but spread out at least 15 feet apart. If one member of your group is jolted, the rest of you can tend to him. Whenever lightning is nearby, take off backpacks with either external or internal metal frames. In tents, stay at least a few inches from metal tent poles.


Lightning Safety Rules


* Stay away from open doors and windows, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, metal pipes, sinks, and plug-in electrical appliances.

* Don't use hair dryers, electric toothbrushes, or electric razors.

* Don't use the telephone; lightning may strike telephone wires outside.

* Don't take laundry off the clothesline.

* Don't work on fences, telephone lines, power lines, pipelines, or structural steel fabrications.

* Don't handle flammable materials in open containers.

* Don't use metal objects, such as fishing rods and golf clubs. Golfers wearing cleated shoes are particularly good lightning rods.

* Stop tractor work, especially when the tractor is pulling metal equipment, and dismount. Tractors and other implements in metallic contact with the ground are often struck by lightning.

* Get out of the water and off small boats.

* Stay in the car if you are traveling. Automobiles offer excellent lightning protection.

* When no shelter is available, avoid the highest object in the area. If only isolated trees are nearby, the best protection is to crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from isolated trees as the trees are high.

* Avoid hilltops, open spaces, wire fences, metal clotheslines, exposed sheds, and any electrically conducted elevated objects.


In light of what you are saying, is the G2SS really adequate in this area?

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Lightning victim's kin accuse Scout leaders of negligence

Friday, June 09, 2006


Associated Press


>shortened to delete content OGE already posted<


"... Korn said the Trescas did not learn what happened before their son's death until a Scout employee contacted them two years later, claiming he had a portable weather radio, warned camp officials in the dining hall that a storm was coming and recommended keeping the children indoors longer.


That employee, Marc Spera, had returned to the campsite and tended to Tresca after he was injured by the lightning bolt that knocked him backward off the picnic table.


"He got down over him to try to see if he was OK," Korn said. "Matthew grabbed his arms and said, 'My legs! My legs!' He (Spera) could see tears in his eyes. His heart had been thrown into a rhythmic disturbance, which is what happens with lightning strikes. It was a massive shock."


James Donohue, the lawyer for the Cradle of Liberty Council and three individual Scout employees being sued, asked why Spera returned to the campsite if he felt so threatened by the lightning.


"This was a lightning strike after the storm had passed that no one expected," Donohue said. ..."





No matter how this is reported, it is a tragedy and a sad story indeed. Most likely we won't know all the details, and as a rule, I don't simply trust what is reported in the news.(This message has been edited by bbng)

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NJCub, high voltage electrical shock can disrupt heart rhythms in a healthy heart, triggering the same kinds of arythmia (like fibrillation) as a heart attack. This is, I believe, the most common way to die from a lightning strike or elecrocution (though a "direct hit" by lightning is instantly fatal).


Good extended CPR and timely advanced life support can often save a person from this kind of heart arythmia, because da heart itself is healthy. It is a shame that didn't happen in this case.



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To NJCubScouter and all...


The Scout was at the "Resica Falls Scout Reservation" per the news story.


BSA Scout Reservations have BSA National Camp Standards, not just the G2SS!!!


Go back and read Bluegoose's post (June 10, Noontime) earlier in the thread:


"I got out my Camp School binder to check on this. According to the 2005 standards, a written emergency plan is required of all council-organized camps.


"Standard M7: Written plans for handling emergencies such as floods, storms, tornadoes, fires, accidents, intrusion of unauthorized personnel, lost children, security, sickness and fatality are on hand and have been shared with adult participants. An "as built" drawing or drawings are availible showing all electric, gas, water and sewer systems and lines, with locations of shut-off swithces or valves should service need to be interrupted.


"While I am not familiar with the 2002 standards, I do believe that the same standard was in place. As to the content or competency of the camp's emergency plan, I'll leave that up to the court."


I mourn the loss of the young man, but there will be lots of discovery (if not already) and lots of hard questioning of the Staff Executive for the reservation, the Ranger, the PD, the lead commissioner, ad infinitum.


Lord only knows how the jury will find.

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In this area of the country, daily afternoon "pop-up" thunderstorms are the norm. Occasionally, they go on into the early morning hours. If the end result of this case is a new rule that says "Do not be outside during thunderstorms", I honestly don't see how to comply with that, other than to stay home. As a safety professional, I can say that the hazard is great, but the risk is low. Statistically, scouts are more at risk in the car riding to and from camp.

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Anytime there's a death/injury in this country, the jury assumes there was negligence involved - that's why there are so many of these cases (they're very easy to win).


Actually, the stats are that plaintiffs win tort cases only about half da time. In many cases, a bench trial is a better deal for the plaintiff than a jury trial. See:



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Just found this on the Net thought you all might like to know.




Settlement reached in Boy Scouts lightning death trial.





2:23 p.m. June 15, 2006


NEWARK, N.J. The parents of a 16-year-old boy killed by lightning at a summer camp agreed to settle their lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America three days into the trial, their lawyer said Thursday.

The amount of the settlement was not disclosed.


Matthew Tresca's family claimed the Scouts either knew or should have known a severe storm was in the area of the Pennsylvania camp on Aug. 2, 2002, when they dismissed 350 Scouts from the dining hall to their wooded campsites.


On Tuesday, a Scouting official testified that the Resica Falls Boy Scout camp sent children to their campsites during lightning storms instead of keeping them indoors as a matter of policy.


The plaintiffs and defendants agreed to keep all details of the settlement confidential, said the family's attorney, Peter Korn.


Tresca's parents sued the Boy Scouts of America, the Philadelphia-based Cradle of Liberty Council and three individual scouting employees for negligence. It was not immediately clear whether the settlement involved each defendant.


Lawyers for the Boy Scouts, the local council and the individual employees did not immediately return calls seeking comment.



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Anyone care to bet on how long before we see a new National Camp Standard covering lightning procedures?


Anyone care to bet on how long before G2SS gets an updated lightning section with mandatory policies?


I do not say if either of the above are good or bad, BTW.

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