Skip to comments.Man Dies of Thirst During Survival Test
Posted on 05/02/2007 3:45:25 PM PDT by Types_with_Fist
BOULDER, Utah - By Day 2 in the blazing Utah desert, Dave Buschow was in bad shape. Pale, wracked by cramps, his speech slurred, the 29-year-old New Jersey man was desperate for water and hallucinating so badly he mistook a tree for a person.
After going roughly 10 hours without a drink in the 100-degree heat, he finally dropped dead of thirst, face down in the dirt, less than 100 yards from the goal: a cave with a pool of water.
But Buschow was no solitary soul, lost and alone in the desert. He and 11 other hikers from various walks of life were being led by expert guides on a wilderness-survival adventure designed to test their physical and mental toughness.
And the guides, it turned out, were carrying emergency water on that torrid summer day.
Buschow wasnt told that, and he wasnt offered any. The guides did not want him to fail the $3,175 course. They wanted him to dig deep, push himself beyond his known limits, and make it to the cave on his own.
Nearly a year later, documents obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act reveal those and other previously undisclosed details of what turned out to be a death march for Buschow. They also raise questions about the judgments and priorities of the guides at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School. What matters more: the customers welfare or his quest?
It was so needless. What a shame. It didnt have to happen, said Ray Gardner, the Garfield County sheriffs deputy who hiked six miles to recover Buschows body. They had emergency water right there. I would have given him a drink.
Family members are angry.
Down in those canyons its like a furnace, said Rob Buschow of Glen Spey, N.Y. I dont have my brother anymore because no one would give him water.
While regretting the tragedy, the school, known as BOSS, has denied any negligence and instead blamed Buschow, saying the security officer and former Air Force airman did not read course materials, may have withheld health information and may have eaten too heavily before leaving River Vale, N.J., for the grueling course.
Noting Buschow signed liability waivers, the school said: Mr. Buschow expressly assumed the risk of serious injury or death prior to participating.
Garfield County authorities declined to file charges, saying there was insufficient evidence the school acted with criminal negligence. The prosecutor said participants knew they were taking a risk.
The U.S. Forest Service, however, has stopped BOSS from using Dixie National Forest for a portion of the 28-day course this summer until it gets outside advice on providing food and water. The agency said it was the first death of a participant in a BOSS survival exercise.
The Colorado-based school dates to the late 1960s. In 1994, BOSS alumnus Josh Bernstein, a New Yorker with an Ivy League education, took over marketing and administration and later became owner. He also is host of the History Channels Digging for the Truth, a show that takes viewers on archaeological adventures around the world.
BOSS emphasizes personal growth through adversity, and using your wits to survive. The mantra: Know more, carry less.
BOSS has wilderness courses lasting just a few days to a month. During the 28-day survival course, held 250 miles from Salt Lake City, campers are required to hike for miles and drink what they can find from natural sources.
Tent, matches, compass, sleeping bag, portable stove, watch all have no role. Campers are equipped with a knife, water cup, blanket and poncho and are told they could lose 20 pounds or more. Among the things they learn is how to catch fish with their hands and how to kill a sheep with a knife.
The course is intended to push people past those false limits your mind has set for your body.
Somewhere along the many miles of sagebrush flats, red rock canyons, and mesa tops of Southern Utah somewhere between the thirst, the hunger and the sweat youll discover the real destination: yourself, BOSS says on its Web site.
Buschow had marched the arctic tundra in Greenland. And after leaving the Air Force, he worked security at U.S. bases outside the country. He recalled his days as a Boy Scout in his May 2006 application to BOSS.
Although in the yrs since, I have continued to appreciate Mother Nature, he wrote by hand, I still havent ever truly immersed myself in her embrace. I fear that Im becoming a comfort camper, having never come close to looking her in the eyes.
Buschow described himself as 5-foot-7 and about 180 pounds, with a resting pulse of 66. A New York doctor checked a box declaring him fit for a survival program. Buschow signed the application, acknowledging that BOSS was not offering a risk-free wilderness experience.
The documents obtained by the AP disclose the brief but bitter wilderness adventure of Buschow:
On July 16, he gathered here with the 11 others, including some from England and a college student who had bicycled from Maine. Most were in their 20s and 30s. They ran 1 1/2 miles so the staff could assess their conditioning.
Buschow was not the most in-shape but not the most out of shape, recalled camper Charlie DeTar, 25, the cross-country bicyclist.
On the second day, after a cool night, the group set out around sunrise and stopped about 8:30 a.m. to dip their cups into Deer Creek in what turned out to be the only water until evening. Buschow pulled a bottle from his pack but was warned by the staff not to fill it.
During the early phase of the expedition, participants can drink water at the source only and cannot carry it with them.
The group, led by three guides, formed a loose chain, with stronger hikers ahead of people struggling at the 6,000-foot elevation, or more than a mile above sea level.
We didnt cover all that much distance, maybe five to six miles. We were moving slowly, a lot of up and down, DeTar said in an interview from Vermont. You dont have food, you dont have water, so you have to move at the slowest pace of the group.
They rested periodically under pinons and junipers, all the while looking for signs of water, such as green vegetation in canyon bottoms. At least two attempts to dig for water failed.
Not everyone had close contact with Buschow, but a consensus emerges from the campers written accounts obtained by the AP: While cheerful, encouraging and coherent at times, he was a man in deep trouble hours before he collapsed.
We were all desperate for water, a camper wrote. Every time (Buschow) would fall or lie down, it took a huge amount of effort to pick him back up. His speech was thick and his mouth swollen.
Every time he continued, hed rush ahead, often in the wrong direction and so exhausting himself even more, the camper wrote.
The sun was described as blazing, inescapable. There were no clouds, a camper wrote.
Some people vomited that day, including a man who got sick three times a typical misery on the rigorous course, according to BOSS. Buschow was suffering from leg cramps about 2:30 p.m. and said he was feeling bad.
During a break, he mistook a tree for a person and said, There she is.
This was the first point at which I became concerned knowing that delirium happens when dehydration becomes severe, a camper wrote. Buschow also asked if there was much air traffic that went through here, and asked if anyone had a signal mirror.
(The Forest Service, citing privacy concerns, deleted certain names from documents.)
By 7 p.m., as the sun descended and temperatures cooled a bit, the group approached a cave in Cottonwood Canyon, known to BOSS guides as a reliable source of water.
Buschows companions were carrying his possessions for him. Within earshot of people exhilarated about the pool of water, he collapsed for the last time.
He said he could not go on, staff member Shawn ONeal wrote two days later in a statement ordered by the Garfield County Sheriffs Office. I felt that he could make it this short distance and told him he could do it as I have seen many students sore, dehydrated and saying cant do something only to find that they have strength beyond their conceived limits.
ONeal didnt inform Buschow about his emergency water.
I wanted him to accomplish getting to the water and the cave for rest, he wrote. He asked me to go get the water for him. I said I was not going to leave him. Shortly thereafter I had a bad feeling and turned to Dave and found no sign of breathing.
A staff apprentice climbed to the top of a dead juniper to get reception for a cellular call to the Boulder office.
Five people took turns trying to revive Buschow while red biting ants crawled over his face. A rescue helicopter from Page, Ariz., arrived about 90 minutes after he passed out, but a defibrillator failed to jump-start his heart. Campers gathered in a circle for the news: Dave is dead.
They had a moment of silence and ate almonds, sesame sticks and energy bars distributed by staff, the first food since sandwiches more than 24 hours earlier.
Buschows death was caused by dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, according to Dr. Edward Leis, Utahs deputy chief medical examiner, who found no evidence of drugs or other factors.
DeTar, a camper who performed CPR, said no one was told that BOSS guides carried emergency water, but I heard it slosh in a pack.
Should it have been offered to Buschow? And if its for an emergency, what triggers it?
Hard to say, said DeTar, who has a masters degree from Dartmouth College and is trained in wilderness first aid. One thing that BOSS offers you is an opportunity to push yourself physically into the red zone. He was 200 feet from the water. Is that the point where you give it to him? Or 500 feet?
Bernstein, the schools owner, agreed to answer questions only by e-mail. He said BOSS instructors can give water based on their assessment of a campers needs.
The group appeared to be within the normal parameters weve seen on the trail over the years, Bernstein said. Many were, understandably, tired, but morale was high and the participants were determined to continue. He seemed capable of completing the hike to camp that evening.
In a Feb. 27 letter to the Forest Service, Bernstein said Buschow may not have trained properly, pointing to comments he made to another camper about drinking a gallon of water a day and eating cheesesteaks to bulk up before the expedition.
His brother, Rob Buschow, said: Its sickening when they blame the victim.
After Buschows death, five people left the course. The six campers who completed the exercise returned to the site to leave a bouquet of foliage and a marker of stones.
I didnt want to have the fear of the desert instilled in me because of this incident, DeTar said.
It's not the first time that has happened.
I would consider not surviving a survival course to be an indication of failure.
I am not sure which is worse. A promising young pitcher who drives drunk and dies, or this. My prayers for both their families.
If you are learning survival tips in a $3,000+ course, shouldn’t one of the tips be not to travel during the heat of the day when you are low on water and risk severe dehydration? If I were trying to survive such conditions, I would travel in the early morning or after the heat of the sun started to dissipate.
Now, if you’re conscious, aware, and need to “rest” before continuing to struggle - go on - the guide SHOULD
“let” you struggle.
But to deny water to a man unconscious to “teach him a lesson” is murder - regardless of how far he is from the water.
At this point it was criminal act.
No kidding. Didn't someone tell him that if there is plantlife, like the tree he mistook for a person, that he could get water out of the plants? Desert plants are full of water.
It is the responsibility of the company guides to monitor and intervene when the life of a client is threatened. This story says wrongful death lawsuit at the very least all over it.
I wonder if he was cremated.
Maybe when he's delusional? Can't walk? See's Algore? His mouth get's swollen?
How about one of the tips being, to fill your canteen when they were at a small creek the day before.
Oh, but he was told not to. DUMB, DUMB, DUMB!
This O’Neal-He asked me to go get the water for him. I said I was not going to leave him. Shortly thereafter I had a bad feeling and turned to Dave and found no sign of breathing.-
is an imbecile.
Did they find Cardinal drinking??
Maybe John Edwards will take the case. He needs the cash since they built their last 12,000 square foot house and cannot sell their Georgetown home for less than $2.3 Mil
Water conservation is the key. Travel in the cooler parts of the day and keep your cloths on and your head covered. That keeps the sweat in the cloths and evaporating slower. You will feel hotter but slow the sweating process.
I always hated desert survival exercises but am (was)quite good at it.
Things are starting to fall into place about people and Utah...
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.