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Agency cites Boy Scouts

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Agency cites Boy Scouts





OSHA says organization responsible for campsites at jamboree where 4 died




Friday, February 10, 2006


2005 Boy Scouts Jamboree


FREDERICKSBURG -- The Boy Scouts of America were "responsible" for where 2005 National Scout Jamboree participants erected tents, including where four Scout leaders were electrocuted, a federal agency stated yesterday.


The leaders died after a tent pole touched an overhead electrical line on the first day of the quadrennial event at Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County.


"The Boy Scouts had a plan and a map of where all these tents went," said Charles T. Pope, a spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "The Boy Scouts were responsible for the campsites."


Pope would not detail OSHA's specific findings. He said the agency will release its report next week, now that the tent company hired by the Alaskan troops, Tents & Events of Fishersville, has settled fines with OSHA in connection with the accident.


The company was cited by OSHA for "serious" violations last month and has agreed to pay reduced fines of $3,000.


Gregg Shields, a BSA spokesman, responded yesterday by saying jamboree troops are assigned campsites and are given a diagram of a typical troop site, but that individual troops decide where to place tents within each campsite.


"Specific placement of the equipment is pretty much left up to the contingent," he said. Troops should factor the terrain into their decisions, said Shields, who has also said that Scouts are taught not to erect tents beneath power lines.


Jamboree troops arriving for the event typically found their campsites staked off with string or rope. A number of troop leaders also told The Times-Dispatch after the accident that the staking marked the perimeter of individual campsites and that troops determined where to place tents within campsites.


While other troops from far-flung places, including other parts of Alaska, used picnic-style canopies no more than 8 or 10 feet tall, OSHA reported the center tent pole of the Western Alaskans' canopies measured 28 feet, 8 inches.


Bill Haines, the Western Alaska Council's executive leader, said previously that two Tents & Events employees asked the Alaska leaders for help when the second canopy was ready to be raised.


Haines did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.


Michael Harman, a Richmond attorney for Tents & Events, said the company settled the case with OSHA in part to expedite the public release of the agency's report on the accident at the 10-day quadrennial event.


"We thought that it ought to come out for the public and for the families," he said.


The Times-Dispatch filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request in November for all documentation relating to OSHA's investigation.


Harman said Tents & Events employees told him that the Western Alaska Council's campsite was already "marked and laid out" when the contractors arrived with the Alaskan troops.


Fort A.P. Hill and BSA officials have previously said they consulted on a master site plan.


Ken Perrotte, an A.P. Hill spokesman, said yesterday that the BSA determined the layout of the camps. "We provide the jamboree site under a license [to the BSA.] They draw up their subcamp plans," he said.


The accident on the first day of the jamboree claimed the lives of Ronald H. Bitzer, 58; Mike Lacroix, 42; and Michael J. Shibe, 49, all of Anchorage; and Scott Edward Powell, 57, who had moved from Anchorage to Perrysville, Ohio, in 2004. Shibe's twin sons and Lacroix's son, all 14, each witnessed the death of his father.


OSHA determined that the contractors were not properly trained to recognize electrical hazards. The agency originally fined Tents & Events $5,600 last month, but Pope said OSHA reduced the penalties because the company has closed and has agreed to correct deficiencies if it reopens. The company functioned as a division of RentQuick.com.


Last month, Army officials said their separate criminal investigation into the electrocution found no evidence of criminal culpability and that the Army would classify the deaths as accidental.


The next jamboree is scheduled to be held at A.P. Hill in 2010, to coincide with BSA's 100th anniversary. The event has been held at the Army base since 1981.


Contact staff writer Kiran Krishnamurthy at first kkrishnamurthy@timesdispatch.com or (540) 371-4792.

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I find it hard to believe that OSHA found the BSA responsible. Having attended the 2005 Jambo, I can atest to the fact that your plot is marked with stakes and string. It is up to each contingent troop to determine their individual camp layout within that plot. Some plots are square and some are rectangular. We had great difficulty getting our site worked out as the stake was in the middle of a road and it had a row of latrines laying within the plot. We ended up having to short ourselves to get out of the road and really cram our tents into the space. It took half a week, but we finally got the latrines moved across the road where there were no campsites. Bottom line, the scouters and/or tent company should have recognized the danger of setting up a 28 ft tent pole under a power line. While the site was assigned to them, they were not forced to erect the tent in that particular spot.

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The subject line is really misleading. There are only 3 possibilities for assigning responsibility...the Army, the Contractor, and the BSA. The Council is part of the BSA. Finding the BSA "responsible" really has no meaning, since OSHA does not have jurisdiction over personnel working in a volunteer capacity. OSHA could "cite" the BSA (i.e., issue citations) only if BSA employees were found to have violated a regulation. The only one with employees on the site was the Contractor which has paid his fine and closed up shop.


What it does, however, is open the gate for civil suits from family members against the BSA.

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