Skip to comments.Boy Scouts 'All Started Screaming'
Posted on 07/26/2005 9:43:37 PM PDT by Coleus
Boy Scouts 'All Started Screaming'
Jul 26, 9:28 PM (ET)
By LARRY O'DELL and JEANNETTE J. LEE
BOWLING GREEN, Va. (AP) - They were deeply devoted to the Boy Scouts, traveling thousands of miles to the woods of northern Virginia for 10 fun-filled days of fishing, archery and storytelling beside the campfire. One of their first tasks: Set up a large tent.
But the task went terribly awry when they lost control of a giant tent pole and it hit some nearby power lines, killing four Scout leaders as horrified youngsters looked on, said Bill Haines, a Scout executive in Alaska.
Karl Holfeld said his 15-year-old son Taylor, witnessed the accident and was on his cell phone to his mother back home in Alaska when the electrocutions occurred.
The boys "all started screaming," Holfeld told the Anchorage Daily News. "He said, 'Oh my God, oh my God, the tent is on fire, they're being burned!'"
Scout adviser David Tracewell, 54, of Kansas City, said that the mood "became very somber" as word of the tragedy spread around Fort A.P. Hill - a sprawling Army base about an hour south of Washington.
"These scout leaders ... get to know these kids very well," he said. "I'm sure these kids are devastated. They're their mentors, their leaders that become like their second dads."
The dead were identified as Michael J. Shibe, 49, Mike Lacroix, 42, and Ronald H. Bitzer, 58, all of Anchorage; and Scott Edward Powell, 57, of Perrysville, Ohio. Shibe had two sons at the Jamboree and Lacroix had one; the three children all returned home to Alaska.
Three other adults suffered minor injuries.
"Our hearts go out to the families of these dedicated Scout leaders who gave so much to their sons, their troops and their communities," Shields told reporters, his voice choked with emotion.
Scout Kenny Suggs, 17, of Baltimore said he did not hear about the accident until Tuesday morning when the scoutmaster told the troop what happened.
"It was pretty frightening," Suggs said.
The victims came from many different professions, but they had one thing in common: They were all avid Scout leaders.
Powell retired to Ohio about a year ago after living for 30 years in Alaska, where he ran a Scout camp. He accepted an invitation to the Jamboree - the last slot for an adult - when he was back in Anchorage this month for the camp's 50th anniversary, said his sister, Anne Rentfrow.
Powell taught scores of boys how to rappel, how to safely use knives and axes and how to find their way through the thick Alaskan forests using a compass. He also had a penchant for storytelling that came in handy in the glow of the campfire.
"He was the quintessential 'Boy,'" said Wayne Starr, a district commissioner for the Boy Scouts in Alaska.
Bitzer is a retired attorney who worked in scouting for years and gave up his law practice to work with the organization, Starr said.
Shields said he knew of no Scouts other than the victims' sons leaving the Jamboree.
Anna Mazi of Fort Meade, Md., whose 12-year-old son, Brian, is attending his first Jamboree, said she had no fears for her child's safety.
"I trust the judgment of the leaders who are there with them," she said. "I still have confidence in the Boy Scouts and the training they go through."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush would stick to the focus of his original speech on service and choices - while touching on the tragedy.
But, McClellan added: "Those parents would want the Boy Scouts to continue forward in their important work."
The Jamboree, held every four years since 1937, runs through Aug. 3. Scouts ages 12-18 are to spend 10 days camping in tents and doing activities that include archery, fishing and a GPS-based scavenger hunt.
There are about 400 electrocutions each year in the U.S., and about a quarter of them are related to power lines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.---
Associated Press Writer Larry O'Dell contributed to this story from Bowling Green; Jeannette J. Lee contributed to this story from Anchorage.
A real tragedy...
a big ol' eagle scout bump.
what a tragedy. prayers for all.
Several TV stations have lost their news trucks (burned up) when the operator raised the truck's microwave antenna into an overhead power line. Anyone that works under or near power lines should have safety training.
A terrible tragedy
With all of the base closings on the table why doesn't the Govt donate some of those unused facilities to the Scouts in areas where a better camp or a new camp is needed? Just a thought
I thought of him when I read this story originally. I thanked Dr. Zapfee's widow, Denise, for "sharing him with us" at his funeral. And I stood at attention with the Scout salute, as he passed by the last time, in his casket.
"A man never stands so tall, as when he stoops to help a boy."
This is just heartbreaking. Prayers for all affected.
Prayers for their families, and for all the boys.
These people are volunteers. They more often than not hold down full time jobs and make time for the kids on top of that.
While your comments are probably accurate, people do stupid things. I'm not sure assessing blame is necessary here.
I was very sorry to hear about this and wish nothing but the best for the grieving families and scouts.
Even though they went on one or two practice trips in Alaska, being in VA with kids you don't really know, the stress and the excitement of it all, the leaders are not the same. I could see how an accident like this happened. I'm wondering how high the lines were.
When I was in scouts, I recall the tent poles being either wooden or aluminum. Was this tent post steel?
Sorry for this tragedy, but I would not entrust my kids to 4 adults who play with long metal pole around power lines, this is an ultimate stupidity, total ignorance, poor jugement, and childish carelesness.
Fortunately no kids were hurt.
Well, actually, as is the case in military after-action analysis, assessing screw ups can save lives in the future.
As my namesake wrote 21 centuries ago:
".........there are two ways by which all men may reform themselves, either by learning from their own errors or from those of others; the former makes a more striking demonstration, the latter a less painful one."
Neither do I. I'm trying to understand WHY the ADULTS were putting up the tent. I mean, maybe scouting has changed, but the whole purpose of being a scout is learning and doing. Not having parents or parental figures do work FOR YOU..
You don't have to have power lines in your mind, but I don't believe neither of the four people raising the pole did not see the power lines when raising the pole.
When you are raising a pole, your head goes up and your eyes follow the end of the pole, power line is not a needle on the sky background, you have to be blind or under some kind of influence not to see it.
This is one of those tragedies which should never happen. The victims paid the ultimate price for their recklessness.
Your callous and ignorant comments are totally uncalled for in this instance.
In the event that you have a friend going to put up a circus tent, by all means, warn them.
I'd hate to think a family member or friend of these folks would cruise through this thread and read some of the comments made on it.
This is a time for sympathy, not explaining what a foolhardy thing these men did.
Accidents do happen, even if we try to claim that they never should. I will accept that these men were "doing their best." Heartfelt sympathies to all. I would hate losing any of my fellow Cub Scout leaders and I would punch anyone of spoke ill of them.
And several soldiers in Europe have lost their lives when they failed to stow the big antenna on the rear of their comms jeep after field maneuvers and drove under the low-hanging electric trolley lines back at their garrison.
This was not a "circus tent". It was a large tent much like the ones that our Boy Scout troop takes to Camporees. I'm an Assistant Scoutmaster myself.
The poster made apologies in advance before he pointed out that it was a very dangerous thing to do.
In the coming year, at their next Camporee, you can bet your bippy that every Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster in America will be looking up for power lines before putting up their Troop's jumbo tent.
The rest of America would also benefit from such paranoia.
My heart goes out to these men and their families. We can all learn from what they did, but it will take quite a few man hours to piece together all the facts of this case. I would hope the men were aware of their situation, but odd things do happen. The big Aggie bonfire tragedy comes to mind.
Ah, you can't understand that I'm talking about a large tent much like a circus tent? Ah, nevermind. Evidently you guys think a whole coven of tent raisers are going to come by this thread and you'll save lives. At some point this gets rather dilusional. Later...
Ah, you can't understand that I'm talking about a large tent much like a circus tent? Ah, nevermind. Evidently you guys think a whole coven of tent raisers are going to come by this thread and you'll save lives. At some point this gets rather dilusional. Later......DoughtyOne
These Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters were at a Boy Scout Jamboree and not setting up Ringling & Brother's Circus.
The tent in question is similar to the large tents many Boy Scout Troops have and take to Camporees.
What "circuses" have to do with all of this only you seem to know.
My point is that a senseless tragedy whose cause is swept under the rug lest feelings be hurt remains senseless and the victims have died in vain.
A tragedy whose cause is analyzed and where the lessons learned are incorporated into future safety protocols has at least served the purpose of saving lives in the future.
My comments were not ignorant, ignorant were people who lost their lives by raising the pole from inside the tent without checking for any obstacles outside. After all they were outside the tent before they get inside weren,t they?
I said in one of my post I am sorry that this tragedy happened and that this tragedy should have never happened.
And I stand by my comments, it was not my ignorance that this tragedy happened, if I was in charge there it would never happen.
I think your post was fine. I'm not sure why I was so hardnosed myself. I appreciate the nice response and appologize for my comments. You were providing a service and I'm think I was wrong to object as I did.
The reason the term circus tent was used was because it had a center pole and was raised from inside. Design was like a circus tent. Not that it was a circus tent.
I think the reason the leaders failed to see was was going on was that it was late 4:30 pm it was in 100 degree heat and they were heat stupid and focused narrowly on getting the tent up for shade. Remeber these people were from Alaska and had a long trip and not accustom to the heat.
When a person is exhausted and overheated they do not think too well and get very narrowed focused at the task at hand. Plus They were inside the tent.
I would have thought that when they planned the placement they would have seen the overhead wires, but evidently did not to their fatal error.
This is a real tragedy and these were experienced leaders. I am not denigrating the dead but this is from human error. Nature is not always forgiving of mistakes.
My son is also at the Jamboree and he is the person who raises the dining tent. I sure hope he would have seen the wires in a similar situation. I think he would have since I have overhead wires in my yard at home and we are very consious of them with ladders and such.
I am glad to hear that one of the injured is returning to the Jamboree. I immediately thought about this accident that these leaders are fathers and have their own sons ussually at the Jamboree. One of the dead had twin 15 year old boys that saw their father die. This is a horrific tragedy.
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