07/28/05 — No area Scouts among heat victims

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No area Scouts among heat victims

By Staff and Wire
Published in News on July 28, 2005 1:47 PM

No Boy Scouts from Wayne, Duplin, Sampson or Johnston counties were among the 300 treated for heat exhaustion at the national Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., on Wednesday, said local Scout officials.

The intense heat sent hundreds of Scouts to the hospital Wednesday. Thousands of Scouts from across the country are attending the annual campout.

Melanie Hopkins of the Tuscarora Council said today that there are 36 scouts and four adult leaders from the council participating in the Jamboree. Local officials have received no reports of any local scouts suffering from the heat, she said today.

"We talked to them two days ago and didn't get any calls yesterday," she said. "To my knowledge, everything is fine."

Hundreds of scouts fell ill Wednesday while waiting to hear President Bush speak. Half of those who became sick were treated and released from the army post's hospital. Dozens more were sent to are hospitals, where they were listed in stable condition Wednesday night, said Jamboree spokesman Gregg Shields.

The incident came just days after four Scout leaders were killed while pitching a tent beneath a power line.

The more than 40,000 Scouts, volunteers, and leaders attending the event had been standing in the sun about three hours when word came that severe thunderstorms and high winds were forcing the president to postpone his appearance until Thursday.

At the last jamboree four years ago, Bush's trip was also canceled because of bad weather, in which lightning strikes caused minor injuries to two Scouts. He spoke to the group a day later by videotape.

This time, Bush was expected to talk about the importance of Scouting and touch on the Monday deaths of the four men.

Many Scouts ate dinner at 2 p.m. and stood in long security lines to get a good spot in the open field to see what for most would be their first glimpse of a president in person.

Volunteers distributed water and ice by the caseload, and the Scouts were told they could remove their uniform shirts if they had another shirt underneath -- a rarity for an event as important as a presidential visit, most Scouts said.

Soldiers carried Scouts on stretchers to the base hospital, located about three miles from the arena stage. Others were airlifted from the event while Jamboree officials called for emergency help from surrounding areas to transport Scouts during the storm, which brought high winds and lightning.

On Wednesday, Shields said the group had ignored scouting teachings by putting the tent under a power line and leaders had taken the "somewhat unusual" step of hiring a contractor to help with the task.

"Boy Scouts are taught not to put their tents under trees or under power lines. I don't know what happened in that case," Shields said.

An investigation into the accident was incomplete.