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Eagle scout fined for rescue

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Teen fined $25,000 for cost of NH mountain rescue


In Colorado, we have a voluntary fee we can pay to cover rescue costs. I think its like $10/year, and tacked onto any fishing and hunting license. My SPOT messenger costs $100/year subscription fee and for an addition $7, covers me for any rescue.

Considering the atmosphere that municipalities are facing and the pressure to get the rescued to pay costs, I think its wise that anyone who ventures beyond your suburban fenced backyards, to obtain some kind of rescue coverage.

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That's a very, very interesting take on the principle of negligence in the outdoors. I'd never seen it expressed quite like that before. What seems reasonable for a Tenderfoot wouldn't be reasonable for an Eagle Scout or a NOLS-trained instructor...

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Charging for the rescue is one thing, but they should not be able to go above the cost that would have been incurred if their own helicopter had been in service.(This message has been edited by wingnut)

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I don't necessarily disagree with the idea that some of the folks you hear about taking really stupid chances and requiring rescue should pay for the rescue. But why is it limited to wilderness rescue. Why are people liable for traffic accidents or those who leave food on the stove and burn their houses down being sent bills?


If this kid had fallen in his bath tub and twisted his ankle, his insurance would have covered an ambulance charge if he were taken to the hospital.


In this case I'm curious about the circumstances of twisting his ankle and deciding to go forward, not back. That seems like a judgement call. If the whole series of events were triggered by his accidentally twisting his ankle, where's the negligence? Without the injury, was the hike otherwise reasonable? If all the other rescue calls the state went on averaged a little more than $1,000, it seems to me that the state is just going after the high dollar amounts.

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This is kinda a hot topic in our neck of the woods.

Guys who cross the ski area boundary to drop in on an untracked bowl. Climbers who don't have the experience or equipment to attempt a route. Kayakers and rafters who should probably stay in the shallow end of the municipal pool.

Should liability be accessed only on those who violate our rules? Do we do that with other aspects of urban life? Does the fire department fine the family of a 3 year old who started a fire in the garage? Should they? Do we really want victims deciding whether to call for help for fear they might be charged for the rescue?


I like to hike alone. In many circles, that is a clear violation of responsible behavior. Should I have anymore liability to pay for rescue costs than someone who travels with a buddy? Where do we draw the line?


This case seems pretty subjective. The scout continued after twisting his ankle. Big whoop. He was traveling alone. Again, big whoop. He was an Eagle scout. Big whoop. Had he never been an boy scout, was traveling with a friend and stopped after getting a twisted ankle, I doubt the costs would have been any different.


I fear the day that after a serious car wreck where I'm trapped in a burning car, the rescuers assess the worthiness of my rescue based on my previous actions.

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As in all things, there is a spectrum, a gradation of sorts. In our neck of the woods, there is an ongoing debate about BILLING for an ambulance call, and even for a rescue call of any kind. Is it beyond the "usual"? Does the F&R service charge a set fee? Charge by time/use/equipment? How does the Volunteer vs Professional part of the service come in?

Most folks seem to think that despite any "negligence" or "recklessness", our tax dollars should be available to help folks in trouble. The debate has included the idea that the insurance company (health. auto, somebody's insurance) could be billed, but what about the soul that has no insurance? Well, that could be forgiven, but someone could be billed...Perhaps guilt would lead the victim to pay up. Perhaps gratefulness makes the receiver of the rescue monetarily responsive. So far, such an "ambulance fee" has been voted down.

But this present case is not about recovering expenses, this is punishment. Shame on you, hiker, for not doing what someone else feels is "good judgement".

I think it is certainly appropriate to discuss how much efffort is necessary to rescue someone and to discuss what may or may not have been done differently to avoid the problem, but to actively punish, crippling so, is just wrong. Our hiker did not seek to do damage, or intentionally, actively injure anyone, only to do what the area was intended for, namely hiking.

User fees, a toll on the trail, mandatory insurance certificate perhaps, but not a FINE

It was not his fault that he suffered an accidental injury.

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Good thought and emotion provoking topic.


This incident was discussed at my WFA recert which included some of his rescuers, as you can imagine the discussion opened on 'what is the BSA teaching scouts and he is an Eagle scout, supposedly the best of the best...' (another topic) and then moved to discuss the injuries his rescuers received due to the winter weather conditions which were correctly forecast - another thing this scout did not consider in his hike plan. What was he thinking anyway to suddenly go on a 17 mile "day hike" alone in the Whites in the winter?


Negligent yes, but another problem is the impact on others. When I was an EMT responding to a car accidents, I was stunned to find the drunk driver was frequently the least harmed in the accident he/she caused - 'killed by a drunk driver' is usually short for 'Killed by a drunk driver who escaped major injury'. Life is unfair. I think about 30 years ago, two similar Einsteins though from MIT, ill-equipped went on hike/ice-climbing trip to the Whites near where this scout was fumbling around. They too became snowbound and suffered severe cold-related injuries - feet amputation resulted. One of their rescuers, an experienced young NH ranger, died. Why did a good man need to die?


So scout be thankful you came out alive with relatively minor injuries perhaps due more to your youth and dumb luck than scout training. Also be thankful that your rescuers came despite the weather and the injuries they received. The bill of $25K is a fraction of the true rescue cost which may be reduced as you were a minor. I hope not. You might consider a repayment deal by joining the NH National Guard where you too might risk your life rescuing others. You may learn responsibility and gain maturity in the NH Guard that you missed on the path to Eagle.


Another thought, I too like to hike alone. I know the map, I know the weather, I know my gear, I know my abilities, others know my itinerary. I don't know if I will be rescued, I don't go into the woods with that expectation. I am alone and I do think about how to get myself home safely as I hike. I think Charles Lindbergh had similar thoughts flying across the Atlantic. Many believe rescue is a given right due to their taxes or cellphone possession...I don't.


I like the idea of a surcharge on fishing/hunting licenses to fund search and rescue, but there should be a fine for irresponsible behavior. I am puzzled that no NH helicopters were available during this time of year. State Police copter was down for maintenance and the NH Guard was out-of-state for training.


This was NOT a BSA activity, but considering recent canoe trip rescues. Does the BSA insurance or Council cover rescue costs? Previously, I mentioned my belief that we are headed towards contracting licensed outfitters for high adventure (non car camping) outings and presumably their liability insurance would cover rescue...maybe.


Good topic.


My $0.02,(This message has been edited by RememberSchiff)

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The problem with assessing fines and restitution for rescues based on negligence, is who's standard of negligence do we apply? I can't think of one rescue where there wasn't some degree of negligence on the part of those rescued.


Example: A 65 year old woman stumbles on a remote trail and breaks a hip. Negligence, right? 65 year old women need to be very careful and avoid stumbling or avoid unimproved trails altogether. She took a risk to hike that trail, knowing the dangers.


Example: A 40 year old man is hit by lightning and suffers cardiac arrest. Negligence, right? He should have known not to hike when there was a threat of lightning. He took a willful risk to hike when there was a potential to be struck, even though remote.


Who decides when and to what degree your negligence triggers restitution? The rescuers? A court? Law enforcement? Remember, no laws were violated here.


Here's another twist. What if the rescue was unwanted? Can you charge someone for something they didn't request or refused?

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I think this fee is actually reasonable from the facts that I have heard.


3 Days out

30+ people looking

Chartered Chopper


A chartered helicopter will run you 500/hr just for the bird at minimum. A Cessna 172 (Really Basic Plane) will run you almost 175. If the charter company required that their pilot fly the chopper, thats another 50 an hour. If the state's own pilot could fly, he still gets paid, but not as much. And the chopper rental/pilot fee does not cover avgas either, and that runs around 3 a gallon now. A chopper burns around 15 GPH, and was up 20 hours. Thats 900 dollars fuel.


The Chopper was in the air for 3 days, and I estimate that to be about 20 hours. At a total cost of at minimum 11,500 and a maximum (700 chopper, 70 pilot) of 16,300.


That averages to be about 14,000 for the chopper looking for him.


Then, they had 30 others looking for him as well. Say they made at minimum 10 per hour for 20 hours (minimum) they spent a minimum of 6,000. Take maximun numbers at 15 per Hour and 30 hours looking we come out to around 13,000. That averages to 9,500 for the search, excludign the chopper.


Add those together, we are looking at 23,500 Total, which is almost exactly in line with the fee given to him.



And for those of you who say that he should not be charged extra for the chopper being chartered, would the injured guy have NOT wanted them to charter a chopper if theirs was out?


He should be lucky he was found at all, going on after being hurt.


I should not have to use my tax dollars to rescue someone after they do something stupid (going on).


I can understand putting out a fire that someone accidentally sets to their house, but when a hiker negligently goes on after being injured, against all better judgement, its his fault entirely.

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IMHO in these days of strapped municipal and state budgets, this type of thing will become more common. I can see a whole new insurance niche rising up to meet this need..."Rescue Insurance". In the old days, fire departments were by subscription only. If you wanted fire protection, you paid your fee and put a cast iron plaque on the front of the house. If the fire brigade pulled up and there was no plaque, they kept going and let 'er burn. Living on the coast, the USCG will no longer respond to boaters who have run out of gas or have engine trouble. You need to call a tow service and expect to pay about $400 for a tow back to shore (think AAA for boats). Fair? I think so.

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I already have rescue insurance. Cost me $7/year as an addition to my SPOT messenger subscription. If I need a rescue, they can recover the costs from that policy. After reading this story, I'm glad I have it. I believe REI brokers a policy similar to this.


In my rural fire district, whenever there's a call, every bit of deploy-able equipment is dispatched. Whether its needed or not. Why? For two reasons, better to have that brush truck at the auto accident call and not needed it than have the accident cause a fire that you might need that brush truck. Also, it justifies having that brush truck. Every dispatch is logged and if a piece of expensive equipment is under utilized, they might have to get rid of it.


So if your local SAR has access to a copper, you bet they will use it whether its necessary or not.


Rescue restitution is a slippery slope. As mentioned before, what's next, fire? Police? Are we heading down a trail that only the rich will have protection, the poor will be left to their own devices?

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This is not just a wilderness issue. Yes some municipalities in our area are charging at fault drivers for accident response. Not all cases, but as noted, there does not seem to be a uniform standard. It varies by the whims of the local Police, Fire departments or Town governments.


I suspect the concept of Rescue Insurance is probably a good idea and It's something BSA councils should look into providing for their units. Unless of course the BSA continues down the road of becoming another youth sports association.



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Remember Colin Fletcher? Hiked the Grand Canyon alone, moving from pre-placed supply cache to cache. He made a vocation out of long solo hikes and became the guru of the hiking fraternity. I cant help but wonder if he had fallen and broken a leg, if he would have been lambasted as a reckless maniac.


Accidents happen and when they do there is a lot of second guessing. I know parents who think it negligent to take scouts out of cell phone coverage.


Reading the article, it seems the alleged negligence here was in continuing up instead of down and leaving the trail to take a shortcut after a minor injury. The decision to go on the day hike was not considered negligent. Since I am not familiar with the trail or area, I cannot comment on whether or not that might have seemed a reasonable course of action at the time. On paper, it seems to be the wrong choice but the author of article does not interview the scout to ask why he made that choice. Could that have been the shortest straight-line distance to civilization?


I wonder if the authorities talked to the scout to ascertain his thought process and the reasonableness of his actions before they levied the fine? It would be interesting to know what he was thinking or if it was just a foolish move.


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