4 AK scout leaders killed at jamboree

Electrical accident occurs as scouts gather at Va. celebration

Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2005

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. - Four adult scout leaders from Anchorage were killed Monday afternoon in an electrical accident that occurred as they were setting up camp at the Boy Scout Jamboree, a gathering of thousands of scouts and leaders from throughout the world, officials said.

Two others, a scout leader and a contract worker, were injured in the accident, which occurred between 4:30 and 5 p.m., said spokesmen for the jamboree, which is held here every four years and opened Monday at noon.

People attending the jamboree from Juneau were not injured, according to Lupita Alvarez, who said she spoke with her husband, Juneau Mayor Bruce Bothelo, Monday night while he was at the event.

"He called me and said everyone in the group was OK," Alvarez said.

Efforts to reach Botelho directly were unsuccessful, though he left a phone message with the Juneau Empire saying he was in the medical tent when the accident happened.

"It's obviously been a real dampener on the event," he said.

The leaders who were killed represented the scouts' Western Alaska Council, an official of that council said. Bill Haines said two of those killed and the injured leader had children with them at the jamboree.

"It's a very tragic loss for all of us," Haines said.

The children, he said, were coping. "They are all being taken care of," he said.

Scout officials gave no details of how the accident occurred, other than to say that it happened while the camp was being set up. One person with knowledge of the jamboree operations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an investigation is under way, confirmed that a pole intended as a support for a tent came into contact with an overhead power line.

A slender pole protruded through the apex of a pyramidal tent at the accident site and appeared to be touching the power line. The tent was one of two that appeared to be intended for large gatherings rather than for housing.

One of the two light-colored tents had apparently been fully erected. The other was cordoned off with yellow tape. The scouts who might have stayed in that area had been moved.

Haines said the four men "were leaders in the scouting community, longtime Alaskans. They were very instrumental in the council." For one, it was his first jamboree.

Bob Dries, volunteer chairman of the national news and media operation for the jamboree, said: "I would expect the jamboree is going to carry on. Certainly, our sympathy is with the families. It's a sad day. The jamboree is about kids and having fun."

A spokeswoman for the jamboree said the accident was being investigated by the Boy Scouts and the U.S. Army, which operates the base, located in Caroline County, about 80 miles south of Washington, D.C.

It was not clear how many people witnessed the incident.

Gregg Shields, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts, said chaplains and grief counselors were meeting with the scouts from Western Alaska. Those scouts are "our primary concern right now," Shields said.

Haines said he did not know whether the Alaska scouts would stay for the duration of the jamboree, which runs through Aug. 3. President Bush is scheduled to address the gathering Wednesday night.

Other scouts from the area in which the accident occurred appeared to be taking part in previously planned activities. Some were seen setting up cots or reading. A camp radio station, Scout Run, interrupted its normal broadcast to report the accident.

Renee Fairrer, a jamboree spokeswoman, said late Monday that 32,000 scouts and an additional 3,500 leaders had assembled to live for 10 days in what was essentially a huge tent city.

The accident, she said, occurred at the eastern edge of the campsite, which she estimated at seven to 10 miles from the fort's main gate. The base is about 76,000 acres; the scouts are using about 5,000. Jamboree representatives said as many as 17,000 two-man tents might be pitched.

The site is supplied with electricity by the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Fairrer said.

This week, some of the scouts have been in Washington, swarming over the Mall and through the monuments, a blur of khaki and neckerchiefs and patch-covered shoulders.

• Juneau Empire reporter Tony Carroll contributed to this report.

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