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Heat Fells 300 Awaiting Bush for Scout Memorial

The illnesses aren't believed to be serious. The president plans to visit today instead.

July 28, 2005|From Associated Press

BOWLING GREEN, Va. — Heat sickened about 300 people, mostly Boy Scouts, who were waiting for President Bush to arrive at a memorial service Wednesday for four Scout leaders electrocuted while pitching a tent under a power line.

The president's visit to the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Ft. A.P. Hill was postponed until today because of storm warnings.

But before the president's appearance was called off, many Scouts were overwhelmed by humid weather that reached the upper 90s.

About half of the ill Scouts were treated and released from the base hospital, about three miles from the event arena. Dozens more were in stable condition at other hospitals Wednesday night, jamboree spokesman Gregg Shields said.

A jamboree spokeswoman said she had not heard of any serious heat-related illnesses. The victims complained of symptoms such as dehydration, lightheadedness and fatigue.

Soldiers carried Scouts on stretchers to the base hospital, and other boys were airlifted.

Jamboree officials called for emergency assistance from surrounding areas, and ambulances transported Scouts to the hospital during a storm that brought high winds and lightning.

Hours earlier, Scouts had begun gathering to hear the president, passing through security screening for a place in a field with the stage where Bush was to speak.

Scout leaders distributed water, and the Scouts were told they could remove their uniform shirts.

"This is hot for me," said Chad McDowell, 16, who lives in Warrenton, Ore. "Where I'm from, if it's 75 we think that it's a heat wave."

The gathering has drawn more than 40,000 Scouting enthusiasts from around the world to the military base south of Washington.

The memorial service had been planned to honor four men who were electrocuted Monday pitching a dining tent at the jamboree.

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

The Scout leaders also had taken the "somewhat unusual" step of hiring a contractor to help with the task, Shields said.

Some Scouts saw the leaders die as the pole at the center of a large, white dining tent touched power lines. Screams rang out as the tent caught fire and the men burned.

An investigation into the accident was incomplete.

Power lines crisscross the Jamboree's 7,000 acres, but the leaders of Western Alaskan Troops 711 and 713 had ample room to erect a tent out of range of overhanging limbs and power lines.

The Jamboree is divided into subcamps, each of which is responsible for putting up a mess tent for what could be hundreds of Scouts in their division.

Shields said he did not know whether Scouting had a specific policy regarding the proximity of tents to power lines, and he could not identify the contractor hired by the Alaska troop.

Those killed were Michael J. Shibe, 49, Mike Lacroix, 42, and Ronald H. Bitzer, 58, all of Anchorage, Alaska; and Scott Edward Powell, 57, who had recently moved from Anchorage to Perrysville, Ohio.

Shibe had two sons at the Jamboree, and Lacroix had one.

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