They scampered up trees for safety, rode piggyback across rising waters and scaled the side of a cliff in the Grand Canyon using just a rope. But the highlight of a daring rescue effort for a group of Maplewood Boy Scouts was the Blackhawk helicopter that plucked them from the canyon and brought them to safety. "If I had to ride the helicopter, I would do it over and over and over again," said Ryan Morey, 12 at a news conference on the steps of Maplewood Town Hall. The six boys and three adult leaders of Troop 21 returned to New Jersey early Thursday morning after spending nearly two weeks out West. Looking bleary-eyed and overwhelmed by the news reporters camped in front of them, the boys, ages 11 to 14, took the microphone to share their account of the rescue.
The Scouts were among the 400 who were rescued from the Supai Canyon after the Redlands Earthen Dam gave way to heavy rainfall in northwest Arizona. "At nighttime, it was really, really scary because you couldn't see stuff," said Avery Wilson, 13. "I have stories to tell my children." Troop 21 is a fixture in Maplewood, dating to 1937. Every year, the troop has a high adventure trip to promote leadership and interpersonal skills. This year, the boys camped in Bryce and Zion national parks in Utah before heading to the Grand Canyon. They arrived there last Friday, hiking 10 miles to Havasu Falls, where they stayed for one night. On Saturday, they moved to higher ground after a park ranger warned them about flash flooding in the area, said Kevin Muench, 49, one of the adult leaders on the trip.
They moved to another campground some 50 yards away and went to bed early anticipating another long day of hiking. But at 1 a.m., they were awakened by other campers and told to gather their belongings because the water was rising. A group of Eagle Scouts from Nevada built a campfire. They sat in darkness, praying and listening to the roar of water and breaking trees. Around 8 a.m., troop leader Dug Nevius waded through the water to dry land to chase after a dog that wandered off. While he was there, he said he ran into four members of the Havasupai tribe who were rescuing others in the area. Nevius brought the Native Americans back to the campground where the Scouts were waiting. But the waters were rising quickly, dimming their hopes of a safe escape.
When they looked back, Nevius said, the water had crested and washed out the island they had been standing on minutes before. "Had we stayed a lot longer, we might've been killed," Nevius said. After spending seven hours in a horse pasture waiting to be flown out of the Supai area, they finally boarded a Blackhawk helicopter. That's when they cheered, Nevius said. Before heading home, they spent a few days at a resort in Las Vegas, hanging out by the pool. Colin Muench, 13, said the rescue was scary but also fun. "I probably learned a lot of stuff like how to survive a real dangerous situation," he said. "It was exciting because nothing like this has happened to me before." Asked what he learned from the experience, Kyle Lai said, "Don't mess with Mother Nature."
Previous coverage from The Star-Ledger:
8/18/2008: N.J. Scouts evacuated after dam collapses
8/19/2008: As canyon water rose, a rope led Scouts out
Great story to tell their kids and grandkids some day. Glad they’re safe.
The unsung heroes in this.
“the 10-yard-wide canyon next to a stream where they had been camping”
I thought the BS taught common sense?
Not a place where I would have set up camp.
Just days after my family went to the Canyon. I know one of my boys must have broken that dam. They look way to innocent when they tell me they didn’t.