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.