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Yah, I didn't realize this was a NSP on the trek. Must have missed that in the text.


I agree with Basementdweller, eh? There were some poor choices here. Mostly because of SM inexperience. I've seen a lot of adults make this sort of mistake, eh? They've been on a trail or river or campout to an area in different conditions, and assume it will be da same. They don't account for changin' weather or higher water levels or whatnot. Or they've done a route themselves or with older scouts, and don't quite appreciate how challengin' it might be for the younger fellows.


I expect da former is especially true in California, where the weather and conditions at lower elevations can be very different from those as yeh get higher. So startin' in tennies might seem reasonable.


Eagle92 makes a good point, and as I wrote in da other thread on NSPs, there's a real difference in havin' a mixed age patrol with some strong kids, some intermediate fellows who know the rules, and a few inexperienced or weaker guys. There the group has enough horsepower to help its younger fellows. One or two experienced folks for a gaggle of neophytes is a recipe for problems once yeh get away from the cars or trailer.


Still, my heart goes out to family, troop, and scoutmaster. Accidents are just that, eh? All of us can remember stories from our own past where kids ran ahead out of sight or there was somethin' we didn't figure on that was harder than expected or there was a "near miss". In many ways, God watches out for fools and boy scouts. ;) So even when we recognize errors in judgment, it's worth doin' so with compassion.


Getting wet feet or post-holing through some snow on a reasonably warm day isn't really that bad a thing, nor is lettin' kids get ahead while yeh stay with the slower lads all that unusual, nor is taking inexperienced kids on a hike that pushes 'em a bad thing necessarily, nor is taking scouts on a steeper grade trail with some exposure. It's da combination of all of 'em which can surprise you. Often, until you've been caught by "things adding up" a couple of times yeh don't recognize the potential for that in advance.




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For an "experienced leader", this seems to be very foolish at best, and not reflective of that much leadership tenure. For whatever reason, it should not have happened.

That said, all of us with any time in the program have likely had our "whewwww!" stories. I had four mid senior scouts go cross country rock hopping in Indian Cove in Joshua Tree. Before they went, we went over the "rules"; stay together; keep everyone in sight; stop when needed for everyone; start back no later than 2:30 (made sure a working watch with them). Three came back, one not with them. "Oh, he wanted to look at something on a rock a ways away, and we were tired. He said he would catch up." Steam, annoyance, worry; they turn to real panic as dusk approaches; just starting to go for ranger, when he wanders in, no worse for wear. So relieved that I barely said anything that evening. Next morning, we had a very serious talk; am afraid I may have even yelled at them for being idiots, though not sure.

What did I learn? Never assume they will do what they say they will do. Do not go on outings with too few adults; this was the era of no 2 deep rule, and I only had one other with me with 10-12 kids.

We were lucky, and we all learned something. It is just sad that in some cases, the lesson is tragic, rather than educational and something to look back on with a laugh and another "thank God".


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I'll toss my story into the fire of this discussion...


We camped last June next to a mountain with a steep switchback trail to the top, the trail continued down a ridge, through a valley, and back to the campsite. It was eleven miles, and just what the guys taking hiking merit badge needed. Plus, the elevation change was more than 1000 feet, so the camping merit badge requirements would be satisfied too. Everyone was excited to get to the top as we started out after breakfast. We had all made lunches and were looking forward to eating our pb&j sandwiches on top looking back down on our camping site.


But it turned out to be a very hot day, and the Scouts struggled to get up the trail, pausing frequently in a shady spot to rest and have a drink of water. We reached a ridge about 2.5 miles up, and the guys collapsed under a tree. We told everyone to have a drink, and were floored when several said they had run out of water. We had talked extensively about bringing enough water, but still some Scouts only brought an old plastic coke bottle they had refilled with water.


It was clear to the adults, that despite the desire of many Scouts to go on, we had to turn back. Several of the Scouts who were prepared were frustrated and angry at those who did not think to bring enough water. Those who had run out were thirsty and felt pretty dumb. We had three adults, so it was clear that we could not split up. We told the Scouts to relax and have lunch. We spent ~45 minutes at this spot, sharing water, and calming down.


We let the Scouts discuss all possible options, but it soon became clear to all that we could not go on. Once everyone was in agreement, we headed down the mountain, stopping a couple times to share the last of our water. Once back at the campsite, we sat down and talked about the hike, and those who hadn't bothered to bring enough water got a good lesson in being prepared and the rest got a good lesson in assuming everyone was ok without checking.


What was key in this case was that it was not solely the adults making decisions, but the Scouts as well. Once the Scouts started discussing what to do next, the Scout Leaders quickly realized that they had to consider the group, not just how they felt or what they needed to do. This to me is real leadership, putting aside their own personal desire to consider what is best for the group.


We've been on three 10+ mile hikes since this experience, and everyone has brought enough water and had great experiences. The Scout Leaders have made it a point to check and make sure all going on the hike are fully prepared. They learned a hard lesson that could have been much harder if they had not considered the group instead of their own wants.


It seems like so many of the tragedies like the one described in the LA Times article involve an adult who has a great desire to get up the mountain or down the river or across the frozen lake, and likely sincerely believes that pushing the Scouts will build character. At some point however, that adult appears to forget that there are Scout Leaders who part of the group and are very able to significantly add to the decision making process.


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I have done hikes the week before I have taken the troop just to check conditions...... I have camped places before I have taken a group.



Luck favors the prepared.



If I have not been and done then how can I make sure my scouts are geared and physically prepared for what lays ahead.

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My eight year old son and me occasionally like reading from the Darwin Awards books. The most important factor that I like to point out to my son is that virtually every one of the Darwin Awards goes to men or boys. There are a lot of cool, fun, and even seemingly crazy things we will do as "boys," but we don't want to end up in that book! The great tragedy here and in so many other stories like it is that everything about it was completely preventable. Although the boys make the decisions and lead a troop or patrol, it is up to us as the adult leaders to bring up the questions to prevent Darwin Award recipients. This adult leaders decision to forge ahead seems to bypass this. Even if the boys decided they really wanted to go on ahead, I would never say "no you can't," but rather start asking about what they are going to be doing to prevent various incidents (shelter, appropriate clothes, rope-possibly for tying together, buddies, rules about the switchbacks, etc.).


Because this is "Boy" Scouts we're talking about, there is nothing that precludes us from plenty of Darwin Award moments. Even most of the adult men here are not immune (and that's a topic for a whole other discussion), including myself, so it's a real challenge.

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I have done hikes the week before I have taken the troop just to check conditions...... I have camped places before I have taken a group.


This is a fine thing, eh?


I'd just add that it's good to take your youth leaders with yeh. SPL/ASPL, or even better the PLs.


They should be the ones checking conditions and becoming familiar so that they can lead their guys safely, as SM224 suggests.




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TN Scout---



I took Wood Badge in 1985. It wasn't training in outdoor skills then, although it used outdoor skills during the course of the training.



My view of Wood Badge is that it aims to motivate adults to "work your ticket" throughout your life, not just when you have a kid in Scouting.

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This saddens me. My heart goes out to the family and friends of this boy, and to the Scoutmaster.


Unfortunately, what happened to this young man is as symptom of a greater problem. Did the boys all really learn safe hiking standards? Did they get to practice those skills? Did the Scoutmaster and tour leader even take outdoor training or HAT hiking?


Training is losing momentum and buy-in.

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Sad situation and our worst nightmare.

This isn't however a training issue. Woodbadge isn't going to solve this. G2SS rules aren't going to solve this. Nothing is going to solve this.


You take kids into the wilds, things happen. Sometimes bad things happen.


Best thing BSA could do is compile these horror stories into a must read by every adult who takes kids into the wilds. We learn best from the mistakes of our peers.



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I sadly have to agree with Seattle Pioneer. Earlier this year, I was out on a maintenance workday at our Scout Reservation; we had a late winter wet snow with wind, and we had two Troops in trouble even in campsite camping mode.


If you prepare for the worst that can happen on a camp, you will almost always be pleasantly surprised, or in other words, plan to the worst case.



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A very sad stroy and prayers for all involved, especially the scout and his family...


A few items have jumped out at me from reading the OP, the replies, and other "wilderness survival" literature...


1) Be Prepared is more than a motto - it should be a way of life. Be prepared for the unknown, be prepared to alter your itinirary when adverse conditions present themselves. Be prepared for ill prepared youth. KNOW ahead of time what are the absolute rules... like don't split up, don't get seperated.


2) There is a fine line between pushing youth to exceed their own limitations and unneeded risk - as an adult we must ALWAYS err on the correct side.


3) Most tragic events are a summation of complacency plus a combination of multiple unexpected variables conspiring against you. In this story - the complacency is evident, then you add in the weather, the altitude, the level of prepardness of the participants = tragedy.


So, HOW does one avoid becoming the statistic? Methods, best practices, rules of engagement (for lack of a better phrase).


Even on small hikes with the cubs - we have a point person and a lag person... NO ONE - for NO REASON goes in front of the point or falls behind the lag - PERIOD. The hike leader literally counts out the people as we depart and counts them back in when we return. Along w/ buddy checks, we do random head counts at most rest points. ANY variation on count - the party stops until we verify we have everyone - no exceptions.


I had a dad make light of this method on our last campout. My reply, "It worked for night hikes in the Jungle of Thialand when I was in the Army, it should work for cubs and their families. I haven't lost anyone in 4+ years of being a leader, and I'd like to keep it that way."


Its not being paranoid - its part of being prepared.


Luck favors the prepared and as one other poster has stated - fatalism is the handmaiden of complacency.


There are check lists, there are go / no-go points, there are safety checks and rechecks. if you build these into your program, they become second nature. In porfessions other than scouting they are used ALL THE TIME.


Why do you think they count instruments and sponges in the OR? They count in and count out - it helps reduce the chance that one gets stitched up inside a patient. Why to pilots have take-off and landing checklists? Same thing.


When these stop gaps / checklists are ignored (or leaders fail to establish them to begin with) you get engineered disasters. You get Space Shuttles that blow up on take off because people who knew better let peer pressure to launch over-ride their judgement on a checkpoint. In Irag / Afgahnistan - it gets your buddies blown up by a IED because someone either forgot, was too tired, or just thought the incoming vehicle didn't "look" like a threat - so they failed to follow best practices.


As much as a pain as it is... I'd rather sit in a meeting and discuss / establish checklists, do's & don'ts, and best practice models - than sit in a meeting later on and conduct a "root cause analysis".


The OP story - the troop was doomed before they ever stepped off from the parking lot. Yes, someone along the way might have used some independent judgement to thrwart the outcome. But, without even considering such an action might need to happen ahead of time - they put themselves in grave peril and unfortunately paid a very heavy price because of it.

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I investigated the ages and a little more info in the list of deaths in the last 5 years. Here is the list of deaths:




1. Ian Joshua Miller, 2010, Coudersport, Pa. Sledding: head injury; age 12

2. Corey Buxton, 2010, Zion National Park, Utah. Hiking: lost, hyperthermia; age 17

3. Anthony Alvin, 2010, Gemini Bridges, Utah. Hiking: trying to leap from one rock formation to another; age 18

4. Michael Sclawy-Adelman, 2009, Big Cypress National Preserve, Fla. Hiking: heatstroke; age 17

5. Timothy Nunn, 2009, Philmont Scout Ranch, N.M. Hiking: heart failure; age 14

6. David Campbell, 2009, Arkansas River, Colo. Rafting: drowned; age 49

7. Craig McCuistion, 2009, Snake River, Wyo. Rafting: drowned; age 50

8. Daniel Fadrowski, 2009, Peach Bottom Township, Pa. Scuba diving: Heart attack; age 56

9. Luis Alberto Ramirez Jr., 2008, Yosemite National Park, Calif. Hiking: fall; age 16

10. Payden Sommers, 2008, Tar Hollow State Park, Ohio. Hiking: hyperthermia; age 11

11-14. Aaron Eilerts; age 14, Ben Petrzilka; age 14, Josh Fennen; age 13, Sam Thomsen; age 13, 2008, Little Sioux Scout Ranch, Iowa. Camping: tornado

15. Finn Terry, 2008, Clackamas River, Ore. Canoeing: drowned; age 11

16. Sean Whitley, 2008, Joseph A. Citta Scout Reservation, N.J. Camping: burns from campfire; age 17

17. Caleb Williams, 2008, Little Sahra National Recreation Area, Utah. Camping: tunnel collapse; age 12

18. Tyler Shope, 2007, Hidden Valley Boy Scout Camp, Penn. Camping: hit by falling totem pole; age 9

19. Thomas Fogarty, 2006, Portsmouth, N.H. Parade: fell off float; age 9

20. Paul Ostler, 2005, Camp Steiner, Utah. Camping: struck by lightning; age 15 - sleeping

21. Jeffrey Lloyd, 2005, Adams County, Idaho. Camping: fell from zipline; age 17 no harness or helmet

22. Luke Sanburg, 2005, Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. Backpacking: fell into river while attempting to push logs into river, drowned; age 13

23. Chase Hathenbruck 2005, Animas River, N.M. Rafting: drowned; age 15

24-27. Ronald Bitzer; age 58, Mike Lacroix; age 42, Michael Shibe; age 49, Scott Powell; age 57; 2005; Ft. A.P. Hill, Va. Camping: electrocution large tent poll they were setting up hit power line

28-29. Ryan Collins; age 13, Steve McCullagh; age 29 2005, Sequoia National Park, Calif. Backpacking : lightning

30. Kelly Beahan, 2005, Joseph A. Citta Scout Reservation, N.J. Camping: hit by falling tree; age 8 - girl

31. Nicholas Johs, 2005, Atlantic Ocean, N.J. Boating: struck by propeller; age 14

32. Matthew Johnson, 2005, Chugach National Forest, Alaska. Backpacking: hit by falling tree; age 37 - sleeping


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So, about a third were probably beyond the control of the camps in which they occurred; the tornado would have been far worse, had the scouts not done such a great job overall with the emergency; adults with health problems can only be screened so much, but they are adults and make choices; the scout sleeping, killed by lightning: what did the scouts do wrong?; adults electrocuted were foolish and should have known better. On some of the drownings, I would wonder if the activity was under the direct scout supervision, or a professional vendor who does it. And, without knowing the details, how many of the deaths happened "with" proper supervision and safety involved, but still occurred?


There are a few that really do stand out as likely lack of or poor supervision and poor safety precautions. Certainly we can always do better; but reality is that sometimes these things will happen no matter how well we do to avoid them. But it would be good to have these types of occurrences discussed as part of the training programs, in order to reinforce how important it is.


One death is too many, so whatever it takes to reduce the likely-hood of it happening should be done. But we cannot take all the danger out of scouting, especially the high adventure areas. And we cannot make adults act like adults and know their own limitations.


Finally, I would challenge the author of this to compare the scouting record with those of similar groups, outdoor programs, and even professional river or high adventure businesses. I suspect that we would find our record is really pretty good in comparison. Then, add in just living in any community; how many more kids die due to all kinds of stupidity, negligence, and simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

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