Hundreds of Boy Scouts Jamboree Heat Casualties
A Jamboree that started off with four Scoutmasters getting killed setting up a tent continues to go badly, with 300 suffering heat casualties yesterday waiting for a presidential visit that was postponed due to inclement weather.
The Boy Scouts marched onto the field singing, plopping down in the grass to wait for President Bush. But hours later, the news that Bush couldn’t make it was drowned out by sirens and shouts as hundreds fell ill because of the blistering heat. About 300 people, most of them Scouts, suffered from dehydration, fatigue and lightheadedness Wednesday Ã¢€” just days after four Scout leaders were killed at the national Jamboree while pitching a tent beneath a power line.
Temperatures at Fort A.P. Hill, an Army base where the 10-day event is being held, reached the upper 90s and were intensified by high humidity. “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.”
Half of the 300 who fell ill were treated and released from the fort’s hospital. Dozens more were sent to surrounding hospitals, where they were in stable condition Wednesday night, Jamboree spokesman Gregg Shields said. 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 four Scout leaders. 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 Ã¢€” 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.
It sounds like the Scout leadership took all reasonable precautions here. Three hundred heat casualties, almost all of them minor, out of 40,000 attendees is not particularly alarming. Presumably, some of the boys aren’t in as good of shape as others and certainly few of them are likely to have been acclimated to this level of heat. Camping is an outdoor event and it’s rather difficult to find an air conditioned venue to seat 40,000 while on a camping trip.